The Short Answer is:
It can be attributed to lack of socialization, genetics, and medical conditions that dogs are afraid of fire.
In this article you will know the answer to the query “Why Are Dogs Scared Of Fire?“.
Lockdown had the benefit of allowing us to spend more time in our gardens. Some of us have taken the opportunity to get our gardens in shape during this extra time.
Maybe you had a bonfire or two as part of that. But perhaps you noticed something unsettling. Is your dog afraid of fire?
I examine the reasons for this in detail in this post.
You may be able to have this fixed before Autumn kicks in and it is time to light the fireplace.
4 reasons that dogs are scared of fire
The following are four possible reasons why your dog is scared of fire (or anything else for that matter):
- Socialization is lacking
- Traumatic experience
- Medical conditions
However the most common reason your dog is afraid of fire is because of a traumatic experience with fire.
An example of this could be a dog getting burned by a flying ember when it had previously been near a fire.
It can be caused by a single incident or by a combination of incidents
Now lets take a look at the other reasons to explore why each of those could trigger your dogs fear of fire.
1. Lack of socialisation
What do you think about the fact that dogs fear fire because they are not mixed with other dogs or people?
No it does not.
In this sense of the word socialization simply refers to the lack of experiences a dog has had- they have literally lived in a very sheltered environment.
The children havenot met many different people or dogs visited many different places and experienced a variety of different things.
Thus they lack a general level of confidence that allows dogs to feel comfortable around people and places and take it all in stride.
In addition to being afraid of fire your dog has a long list of other fears and phobias because their confidence is extremely low.
A lot of rescue dogs are not socialized properly.
The fact that dogs can be scared by some things is also part of their genetic makeup.
It is possible that their parents were scared of fire so they are too.
I find this fascinating but its hard to explain.
It is true that genetics can play a role in a dogs anxiety.
The results of a recent study in Finland with nearly fourteen thousand dogs showed that dogs of the same breed experienced the same anxiety.
4. Medical conditions
Fire phobia is more likely to cause medical conditions in dogs rather than aggressive behavior.
A dog with an open wound may react very aggressively if someone touches it. This would be obvious and easy to see.
However there are a number of “hidden” medical conditions that result in dogs being incredibly anxious as well.
In addition to hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism and epilepsy there are also conditions that lead to aggression such as dental disease and arthritis.
Are dogs scared of fire by instinct?
A dogs instinct might not be to be scared of fire.
Obviously fire generates a lot of heat and smoke which means that many animals would not get close to the fire because they either can not get close to it because it is too hot for them or because the smoke gets in their eyes or chokes them.
However this wariness should never be mistaken for instinct. There are dogs that do not react at all to fire.
A few weeks ago my wife was gardening at a clients house and they had a bonfire in the garden to burn some green waste from all the cutting and pruning.
The client has a spaniel and like many spaniels he is obsessed with balls. It never gets boring for him to go back and forth to retrieve a ball for hours on end.
It is so strong that the dog dropped the ball at my wifes feet even when she was next to the fire.
Did this spaniels obsession override his natural caution regarding the heat and the smoke he felt?
What are the biggest symptoms of a dog being fearful?
The following are some of the most obvious signs that your dog is afraid of fire:
- Running away
- Barking or growling
How to stop your dog from being scared of fire?
The good news is that you can help your dog to overcome its fear of fire.
This should only be done if the fear of your dog is causing a major disruption to your life or your dogs life.
If for instance in your house you use the log burner frequently during the winter and the BBQ during the summer and your dog is terrified of both of these then these are behaviors to overcome.
You may not have an open fire at home or you may not use a BBQ but if your dog was scared witless by an open fire at a friends house then perhaps any training isnot worth it because it does not happen often enough to be bothersome.
Its important to realize that this will take a lot of work and commitment on your part.
Training will take longer if your dogs fear of fire has been present for a long time than if it is a relatively recent development.
You should think about what your goal is then break it down into smaller steps.
If your dog is scared of the log burner in your living room and would not enter the room when it is lit you need to determine your objectives.
It may be that you want your dog to lay down in front of the television and go to sleep.
This can be broken down into small steps by working out where the dog usually goes when you light the fireplace then working backward.
With every step along the way the log burner will become closer and closer.
It might be necessary to sit on the ground with your dog in order to get them to move closer but that does not matter.
Make sure your dog is motivated by a ball or toy so you can get him one step closer.
The idea is to distract your dog from its fear and replace it with something more positive
I know this might seem stupid or silly to break it down into such small pieces but all of this is to ensure that the task is as simple as possible to accomplish.
As the training goes well there will be a lot of praise and fun interactions and your dog will be able to associate this activity with being fun.
You can even throw in a treat for good measure.
Praise is a drug that both you and your dog can use as I discussed in a previous post about dog fear.
When you take the small step approach you run the risk of trying to accomplish too much too soon.
You have overly ambitious goals.
During the first session for example you want your dog to approach the fire within four feet.
Whenever your dog starts getting anxious you feel frustrated because it does not listen to you and you feel like you’re failing.
As your dogs anxiety increases so do your frustration level.
It has been a failure for everyone and nobody wants to try it again.
When you stop doing it you are back at square one. The dog disappears as soon as you light the log burner.
This is even worse if your dog whines instead of running away!
As a result even though the first approach will take much longer your chances of success will be much greater.
Why are dogs scared of smoke?
In addition to being afraid of fire some dogs are also terrified of smoke.
It is also likely that you have a nasty prior experience like with fire.
Dogs are very sensitive to smoke. The first thing you notice is the dense smell of burning followed by the difficulty in seeing clearly due to visibility issues.
These two sensations combined with a terrifying experience in the past would be enough to freak out most dogs.
Why is my dog scared of lighters?
Until you start looking at the forums and watching a few YouTube videos you would not believe it
However there are dogs that seem to be scared of lighters.
Is it possible for a dog to be afraid of a cigarette lighter? After all they are so small.
They can not possibly be terrified of that tiny flame can they?
Its the flame then
Which things do dogs tend to be scared of the most?