Why Is My Dog Scared of Plastic Bags

Plastic bags turn my dog off. As soon as he sees me back at home with bags of groceries in plastic bags, he will become uneasy.

Instead of running towards me, he will stay far away from me and hide in a corner.

If this is happening to your dog as well, read on as I have some findings to share with you.

An Unpleasant Experience with Plastic Bags

If your dog ever gets his head covered by a plastic bag accidentally as he is playing with it, it will have left him with a traumatic experience.

He had a hard time trying to get it off his head and would see any bag as a threat to him thereafter.

It could also be the case that his previous owner had played a prank on him with a plastic bag and that had created his unpleasant experience with it.

He is associating plastic bags with negative events, that is, something BAD will happen to him when he comes near to them.

So, the next time he sees a plastic bag, it will bring back his memories of the unpleasant happening, and he will react with fear.

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Unpredictable Movement Of The Bag Stunned Him

If you are hanging your plastic bag on an outdoor hanger to dry out, the wind blowing on it will cause it to keep swinging about.

This irregular movement can be quite startling to your dog as he just doesn’t know what is going to happen next.

There is no fixed direction as to where the bag is moving. It moves towards the left and switches to the right in just a second.

Your dog will see this “creature” as a moving object that he could not predict, and it’s going to be a scary experience for him.

His instinct tells him to stay away from it as he doesn’t know if the swinging plastic bag will attack him and will see it as a threat.

The Odor From The Plastic Bag Frighten Him

Dogs are highly sensitive to the smell and the chemical scent from plastic bags and newspaper can make them feel uncomfortable.

Besides the chemical scent, the odor that is left on the bag when it is used to carry fruits such as orange, lemon and grapefruit can be unpleasant for your dog as well.

These fruits come with a strong scent that dogs are not comfortable with as they are an irritant to their sensitive nose.

It is for this reason that these fruits are often used by owners as a natural deterrent to keep their dogs away from designated areas.

That is why it is important to get rid of the smell that is left on the plastic bags if you intend to reuse them.

You can do this by simply sprinkling some baking soda into the bag, and it will neutralize the odors.

Fear Of What’s In That Plastic Bag

Your dog is afraid of the plastic bag because it is filled with something that he cannot see, and he might have smelled something in the bag that is unfamiliar to him.

He doesn’t know what’s inside that bag and the fear of the unknown freaks him out.

In his mind, the bag might contain something that could harm him, so he would not want to touch it.

He will keep a safe distance and observe it from far away till he is sure what’s inside that bag is of no threat to him.

“Whistling” Sound From The Plastic Bag Scared Him

When the wind blows on the plastic bag that you have hung outdoors, it will create a “whistling” sound that can easily be picked up by your dog who possesses acute hearing.

This triggered his curiosity and he went near to do his investigation. As he goes near it, the “whistling” sound comes back again (because the wind blows again on the bag)and that scares him away.

He is terrified that the sound appears again once he goes near it and that freaks him out.

You Had Made Him Afraid Of The Plastic Bag

Did you have the habit of shaking open your folded plastic bag before packing stuff in it? The act of shaking the bag can have a traumatic impact on your dog’s anxiety and make him fearful of it.

This is because the “shaking” process involves your fast movement, a sudden increase in a bag’s perceived size, and produces a fair amount of noise.

This combination of factors could easily make your dog nervous.

Consider opening the folded bag rather than shaking it and this will help to reduce the noise generated and slow down the expansion of the bag.

Keep in mind that dogs perceive themselves as more intimidating by using size perception and noise. From that perspective, plastic bags can be a pretty scary thing for your dog!

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Elasticity Of The Plastic Bag Terrifies Him

Your dog is terrified by the elasticity of the plastic bag. He sees that it can shrink (when you fold it up) and grow in size (when you open it up) in just a few seconds.

The bag seems to him like a huge cage that can trap him if he comes near it. As he couldn’t see what’s in that big bag, it frightened him even more.

As a result, your dog will not go near it, and he’ll try to avoid it as much as he can.

How to Help Your Dog Overcome His Fear of the Bag?

If you are looking for a method to desensitize your dog, you can make use of the following approach.  

1. Place an opened plastic bag in the corner of a room that he is familiar with. Your bedroom would be an ideal choice.

2. Have your dog on a leash while you slowly bring him into the room. The leash will prevent him from running away. Keep the bag about 1 meter away from him.

3. Get someone to help you place a highly value treat, such as a piece of cheese, about 0.5 meters away from the bag.

4. Try to make your dog go near the treat to eat them. Praise him when he makes that brave move. This is to make him associate a good experience with being near the bag.

5. Once he gets comfortable with that, you can gradually shorten the distance between the bag and your dog and increase the amount of time that he will stay there.

6. The goal is to make him feel comfortable going near the bag, and you can use the bag to touch him without him freaking out.

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