Why Dogs Have a Fear of Balloons (But Why Some Dogs Love Them!)

When you think of balloons, you typically envision birthday parties, family gatherings, and celebrations. With this in mind, it may raise questions as to why some dogs are scared of balloons, considering the fun and excitement they can bring.

My furry friend absolutely adores balloons. He happily chases after them, catches them, and even pops them (although we have to stop him as it isn’t the safest activity). However, not all dogs share the same sentiment. For instance, my friend’s dog has a genuine fear and anxiety towards balloons.

This made me curious to discover why this fear exists. To my surprise, I discovered accounts online where owners reported their dogs being scared of hot air balloons as well!

What Causes Dogs to Fear Balloons?

It’s important to note that not all dogs are scared of balloons—only some. As mentioned earlier, my dog loves them. So why is it that some dogs are afraid of balloons, while others enjoy playing with them?

Generally, there are two reasons why balloons can elicit a negative response from dogs, leading them to despise balloons.

Firstly, certain dogs may have had a frightening experience with balloons in the past. Perhaps, as puppies, they mistook a balloon for a ball and bit into it, only to be startled when it popped loudly. This negative experience can leave a lasting fear of balloons in their minds.

The second reason could be a lack of exposure to new things during their puppyhood. The window for puppies to learn about the world is limited, so any new experiences encountered later in life can trigger worry and anxiety. This often results in dogs urinating when scared.

Just imagine how strange a balloon might appear to dogs with anxious personalities. It resembles a ball but behaves differently. It emits unfamiliar sounds and feels peculiar when touched. The texture is odd as well.

For a dog, all of this combined can induce anxiety and fear. In fact, this fear even has a name—globophobia. Globophobia, according to the FearOf.net website, is “a morbid fear at the thought, sight, touch, or even smell of balloons, with many individuals fearing the sound of popping balloons.”

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Why Do Some Dogs Love Balloons?

On the other hand, you might have a dog that adores balloons. Mine certainly does and lights up when we play with them.

He enthusiastically jumps up to bite at the balloon, sending it soaring into the air, only to watch it descend and continue the playful torment. This game can go on for hours!

And my dog isn’t alone in his affection for balloons. Many of our four-legged friends thoroughly enjoy bouncing balloons around and even find pleasure in popping them. Therefore, this isn’t an issue that affects all dogs.

Dogs love balloons for the opposite reasons that some despise them—it’s all about the way balloons behave, feel, and sound during play. They mimic prey, allowing dogs to catch and “kill” the floating object. This greatly appeals to dogs with a high prey drive.

Why Are Some Dogs So Scared of Balloons?

We’ve already discussed how the loud noise of a popped balloon can be a source of fear for dogs. However, there could be additional reasons behind this fear. Here are some more details on what triggers fear in certain pets.

1. How Balloons Move

Consider the way a balloon moves around a room, bouncing off furniture and gliding through the air. There aren’t many other objects that move in such a peculiar manner. For sensitive dogs, this unusual movement might be enough to convince them to keep their distance.

2. How Balloons Smell

We are aware that a dog’s sense of smell surpasses that of humans by a significant margin. Depending on the breed, a dog’s sense of smell can be up to 100,000 times more powerful than ours.

Now, imagine the strong rubbery scent emanating from a balloon, and multiply its intensity by your dog’s heightened olfactory abilities.

3. How Balloons Feel

If your dog is brave enough to investigate a balloon, he might be perplexed by its texture. It can be quite challenging for him to grasp and hold in his mouth. Additionally, there’s the ever-present risk of a loud noise if he manages to bite into it.

Why Are Dogs Scared of Hot Air Balloons?

During my research, I stumbled across reports of dogs being scared of hot air balloons as well. To shed some light on this matter, I defer to the explanation provided by DreamDogs.co.uk.

“It’s a combination of the unfamiliarity with something so large and daunting floating overhead, and the loud, sudden noise of a burner firing up. The latter element is only likely to frighten a dog if you’re standing fairly close, such as attending a balloon festival or observing a launch from your local park. It’s only natural for a dog to be frightened by hot air balloons.”

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How Can You Help a Dog Overcome Their Fear of Balloons?

1. Provide a Safe Space

For some dogs, the solution might be to create a quiet, balloon-free space as an option during celebrations. This way, your dog can relax in their designated area without any worries. Be sure to keep them far away from the sound of balloon popping when cleaning up.

2. Try Counter Conditioning Techniques

If your dog is slightly apprehensive rather than terrified of balloons, this technique might be effective. Counter conditioning involves transforming your dog’s fearful emotional response to balloons into one of excitement.

Let’s go through a step-by-step guide:

  1. Select a treat that your dog absolutely loves, such as hot dog sausages or cheese.
  2. Cut the treats into small pieces.
  3. Take a seat on the sofa with a balloon on the cushion beside you.
  4. Show your dog the delectable treats and feed them one by one.
  5. Once your dog has enjoyed a dozen or so treats, stand up and move the balloon out of sight.
  6. Take a short break, then sit down again with the balloon by your side.
  7. Repeat the process, offering treats with the reappearance of the balloon.

The goal is to get your dog excited whenever they see a balloon because they associate it with receiving fantastic treats!

3. Utilize Desensitization Techniques

This technique is applicable for dogs that experience significant anxiety around balloons. Desensitization aims to gradually reduce your dog’s sensitivity to the presence of balloons, thereby minimizing fear.

The process involves introducing the balloon in the least intimidating way possible so that your dog can acclimate to it without feeling overwhelmed. Here’s a simple plan:

  1. Once again, pick a treat that your dog adores, such as cooked meat, cheese, or hotdogs.
  2. Hold an uninflated balloon in one hand while offering your dog a treat with the other.
  3. If your dog shows no signs of distress, add a small amount of air to the balloon and repeat the treat-giving process.
  4. Continue the stepwise process, gradually increasing the amount of air in the balloon as long as your dog remains calm.

Over several days, you can progressively inflate the balloon until it is fully blown up, while ensuring your dog remains at ease throughout the process.

How Can You Tell if Your Dog is Afraid of Balloons?

Sometimes, our dogs convey their feelings through subtle body language. Unless we are aware of what to look for, we may miss the signs of anxiety in our beloved pets. If you observe any of the following behaviors when balloons are present, your dog is likely expressing discomfort:

  • Tail held between the legs: Although this is a recognizable sign of fear, not all dogs exhibit this behavior. Some dogs hold their tails straight down or still, with minimal side-to-side movement, when anxious. Understanding your dog’s tail position is crucial.
  • Lip licking: This gesture indicates appeasement and serves as your dog’s way of conveying worry.
  • Ear position: Depending on your dog’s normal ear position, you may notice them either pinned back against the head or standing upright and rigid.
  • Hunched back: When your dog appears as if they are trying to shrink into themselves, it signifies their struggle to cope with a challenging situation. However, be aware that this posture can also be a sign of various medical problems, so consult your vet if your dog remains hunched when no longer near balloons.
  • Whale eye: This occurs when your dog’s eye reveals more of the white area than usual and is sometimes referred to as “half-moon eye.”
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Should You Seek Professional Help?

If your dog becomes so terrified that they cannot be comforted or there is a risk of injury to you or your dog, it is advisable to consult your vet. They can rule out any underlying medical issues that may contribute to fear-based behaviors and recommend a veterinary behaviorist who specializes in addressing these situations.

Are Balloons Dangerous for Dogs?

In short, yes, balloons are hazardous for dogs. I strongly advise against allowing dogs to play with balloons unsupervised. If your dog accidentally ingests a piece of a popped balloon, it can lead to choking. Moreover, chewed balloon fragments can potentially obstruct your dog’s intestinal tract, requiring surgical intervention and, in severe cases, resulting in death.

Based on these risks, it is best to prevent dogs from playing with balloons altogether.

Conclusion

For dogs that find balloons terrifying, having the house adorned with balloons during parties and festive occasions can pose a genuine challenge. Dogs with heightened auditory sensitivity may also find the sound of a balloon popping particularly distressing.

If your dog detests balloons, it may be simpler to eliminate any potential contact with them rather than attempting training methods.

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