Why are dogs scared of smoke

Why are dogs scared of smoke?

Last Updated: August 20, 2023
correct answerThe Short Answer is:

There are many reasons why a dog might be scared of smoke. Smoking is a very sensory experience. Smoke tends to smell very strong, and thick smoke interferes with or blocks vision. Also, smoke also moves and swirls around, allowing a dog to run away from it only to be covered by it moments later.

In this article you will know the answer to the query “Why are dogs scared of smoke?“.

For some reason or other I have a beautiful golden retriever who is full of anxiety.

Why are dogs scared of smoke

As a result I have become more interested in how anxiety and fear work (or do not work) in dogs.

There are several other articles I have written on the topic scattered throughout this post.

This article discusses specifically fear of smoke.

So lets get right to the heart of the matter.

Why are dogs scared of smoke?

There are many reasons why a dog might be scared of smoke. 

Smoking is a very sensory experience. 

Smoke tends to smell very strongly and thick smoke interferes with or blocks vision. 

Also smoke also moves and swirls around allowing a dog to run away from it only to be covered by it moments later.

In addition to fire and flames there is a lot of smoke.

It also adds heat to the sensory mix as well as that eerie sound that fires produce. 

Therefore perhaps we should be surprised when a dog isnot scared of smoke rather than when it is. 

Before we get into how we can help a dog become less fearful of smoke lets take a step back and examine what fear actually is.

Fear vs phobia

Dogs have a very healthy fear reaction. When activated correctly this protective mechanism helps to keep the animal alive and alert.

Obviously a dogs fear of smoke is a great fear to have when they are caught in the middle of a house fire and must flee.

When a healthy fear turns into a phobia and the reactions change from helpful to very unhelpful problems arise.

Phobias are exaggerated or irrational fears associated with a very specific situation or context.

When a dog is afraid of smoke it becomes an irrational response if it panics in any situation where there is smoke whether it is bacon being fried on a grill or meat being cooked on the BBQ.

When that happens there is no reason for your dog to be scared but you can not help it if your dog is so afraid that it wants to bolt from your kitchen or flee from your yard at all costs.

This is also the greatest weakness of the fight or flight response.

Our brains can not keep up with the reaction because it happens so quickly.

A dog reacts or acts before it has a chance to think. 

After playing catch-up the brain decides whether the reaction was the right one.

For humans as well as for dogs it is the same. 

We have now attempted to define fear and phobia so lets look at some of the basic reasons that dogs get scared. 

Four reasons why dogs get scared 

There are four reasons why dogs get scared: 

  1. Socialization is lacking
  2. Traumatic experiences
  3. Genetics
  4. Medical Conditions

Lack of socialisation

It happens when a puppy isnot exposed to enough different people places or other dogs as they are growing up. 

I’m talking about a very narrow window when I say growing.

According to some these experiences should take place by the time the puppy is sixteen weeks old.  

After this age young dogs get “set in their ways” and view new experiences with trepidation instead of excitement.

I do not think this is relevant to a dogs fear of smoke since I doubt that too many puppies have been exposed to smoke by the time they are four months old. 

Prior traumatic experiences

An important factor that contributes to a dogs fear of smoke is this.

Smoke has caused fear or phobia in the past as a result of a very frightening incident.

It could be something as large as a house fire or as small as being left alone next to a bonfire billowing thick smoke for a few seconds.

Likewise the dog could have gotten it wrong and made the wrong association.

They may have been standing next to a BBQ when they were struck by a tiny burning ember.

The focus however is not on the fire itself but rather the smoke is generated. 


Those among you who are cynics are already groaning.

Who can be responsible for a dogs fear if its parents or grandparents are involved?

There is some evidence that trauma helps shape fear but it is complex and not as easy to understand as to why trauma would do that.

Consider this Finnish study on anxiety and fear in dogs.

The study received responses from nearly fourteen thousand owners.

According to the study not only were anxious behaviors quite common in dogs (like the fact that over 30% of all dogs were scared of one sound or another) but also dogs of the same breed did display anxious behaviors that were absent in other breeds.

Despite being very interesting it is unlikely that a dog would be afraid of smoke simply because one of its ancestors was. 

Medical condition

Last but not least dogs can become scared as a result of a medical problem that causes pain hampers mobility or affects their sense of smell or hearing. 

Whatever the reason the effect is to make your dog less tolerant.

Its also possible that the decline and intolerance are caused by the aging process as well as a medical condition. 

I believe this explanation might be very relevant for dogs that are scared of smoke. 

In my next post I will discuss why a dog that is afraid of smoke can be such a problem for owners. 

My dog is scared of smoke- who cares?

Its one thing for a dog to be wary of an odd bonfire because of the smoke but what about a dog who is terrified of entering a kitchen?

Most of us have only the occasional bonfire or BBQ so a dog will have plenty of safe escape routes within the house.

However if the fear of smoke is linked to being in your kitchen or being there when the oven is on the fear of smoke becomes much more problematic for your dog.

We could stop having bonfires or even barbecues if they caused our dogs too much distress.

Can anyone honestly stop using their ovens due to the terror that it triggers in their dogs?

There are not many…

So now I would like to explore the most common ways in which dogs show fear in order to better understand what a huge impact being scared has on our dog as well as ourselves. 

Top five signs that show my dog is scared

As each dog is an individual they may show their fear of smoke in a variety of ways but some of the most common ones include:

  1. Runaway from the situation
  2. Growling snapping or biting
  3. Barking or yelping
  4. Cowering and shaking
  5. Defecating

All of these behaviors are extremely stressful for a dog as well as extremely distressing for any family member to witness. 

In addition to being upset they are also very difficult to live with. 

Smoke-related reactions in your dog particularly if they are related to a fear of the kitchen will negatively affect your quality of life.

Is it possible for you to cope with a dog that runs out of your front door or snaps at one of your children because hes so scared of smoke? 

I have provided some helpful tips in the following section to help you act quickly. 

How to stop your dog from being scared of smoke

The bleedin’ obvious needs to be stated.

If your dog displays a behavior that is so extreme that it is putting their safety or your safety at risk you should speak to your veterinarian.

To rule out any medical or physical reasons for your dogs behavior you might want to have your veterinarian physically examine him.

Additionally the veterinarian can recommend a behaviorist who can help you quickly correct your dogs behavior. 

It may be possible to modify your dogs behavior yourself if your dog shows a behavior that isnot so dangerous but clearly indicates that he or she is scared of smoke.

You’ll have to remain positive at all times but when you succeed in helping your dog become less afraid you’ll both be ecstatic!

Aside from patience and praise it is important to break the process into very small steps.

This process is similar to the one described in this article. 


The purpose of this post is to help you understand why your dog may be afraid and some ways that you can help your dog overcome this fear.

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Amanda Dogs Trainer

Amanda (Author)

With over a decade of experience, Amanda is a distinguished dog trainer. Her expertise in canine behavior has transformed countless lives, fostering harmonious human-canine connections. Through compassionate and personalized approaches, she empowers owners to understand and connect with their furry companions, creating a legacy of joyful tails and transformed lives.

Osvaldo Maciel Dogs Trainer

Osvaldo Maciel (Content Reviewer)

Osvaldo Maciel, a stalwart in the field with 14 years of experience, is a revered dog trainer. His journey is defined by a profound understanding of canine behavior, shaping unbreakable human-canine bonds. Osvaldo guides owners to connect with their beloved pets, leaving an indelible mark of happiness and transformation. His legacy shines through the countless lives he has touched.

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