How to relax anxious dogs

Learn how to relax your anxious pooch

Relax your anxious dog
Relax your anxious dog | Source

A revolutionary product for anxious dogs!

ThunderShirt Polo Dog Anxiety Jacket, Heather Gray, Large
ThunderShirt Polo Dog Anxiety Jacket, Heather Gray, Large

Anxiety, fear, stress, and over-excitement are surprisingly common problems for millions of dogs in the United States. The Thundershirt anti-anxiety wrap has helped tens of thousands of dogs around the country reduce their suffering from these issues.


Recognizing and treating nervous dogs

After working with animals for quite some years, I have learned to identify quickly dogs that are particularly tense by simply observing their body posture and facial expressions. Nervous dogs exhibit a series of signs that may not be promptly visible to the unexperienced eye, but it may be helpful to learn how to read into these particular hints so to react promptly.

Nervous dogs may be prone to biting as they are often in a "fight or flight" response mode and this is why when working with animals it is vital to identify the nervous dog so to restrain it properly. However, learning to distinguish the body cues of a nervous dog should not be limited only to people working with animals, rather, this may benefit just about anybody that owns a dog.

Dogs use primarily body language among themselves. Years ago, when still in the wild, dogs used to live in a pack and various emotions were continuously transmitted and perceived among one another. Dogs were able and still are able today, to represent a wide array of emotions by just using specific signals that were and still are readily understood by other dogs.

Today, as humans, we must try to understand what dogs are trying to tell us. This way we can better communicate and cherish the relationship we have with them. When it comes to demonstrating nervousness, some dogs may display very subtle signs of being uneasy and some instead manifest very prominent hints of such uneasiness. Common signs to watch for are:

  • Overall tense body
  • Tail between legs
  • Shivering
  • Panting
  • Ears folded tightly back
  • Pulled back lips
  • Licking lips
  • Eyes showing white part (whale eyes)
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Yawning
  • Hiding behind owner
  • Backing away
  • Lowered body
  • Excessive shedding

When the nervousness escalates then other more evident and concerning signs may be added:

  • Barking
  • Growling
  • Lunging forward
  • Nipping
  • Snarling
  • Biting
  • Piloerection

As we can see, if we catch the early warning signs we may avoid big trouble. There is still a big debate today on the growling issue. Many people tend to punish a dog that is growling, but more and more dog behaviorists are re-evaluating the meaning of growling. While once, growling was seen as negative warning of an upcoming bite, today a growl is perceived more on a more positive note. A growl may just be a way for the dog to manifest it's uneasiness; try to take the growling away and very likely you will get a dog that will bite out of the blue without warning.

But why are some dogs more prone to being nervous? There are many different theories. The nature vs. nurture debate may be considered here. Some believe that some dogs are just plain and simple predisposed to nervous behaviors. For these believers, a dog's temperament is genetically linked and there is not much that can be done to change it. They believe that it is in the dog's nature, genetically instilled deep in their core.

On the other hand, there are those that believe that the environment is what will shape a dog's temperament. Socialization, interaction with litter-mates and humans will bring out the dog's temperament. Tl learn more about this read: The nature versus nurture debate in dogs

While both theories will still be fully debated for a while, there are some pretty consistent theories of what may make a dog more prone to a nervous inclination, here are some examples:

  • Dogs that were not properly socialized by the age of 12 weeks
  • Dogs that were not properly trained
  • Dogs that lacked guidance from their owners
  • Lack of confidence
  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Genetic predisposition

Treating Nervous Dogs

While some dogs prone to nervousness may be challenging to relax, most simply need lots of patience, time and consistency. Many animal shelters work hard on training dogs that lack confidence and a good percentage of them make great progress and are successfully re-homed.

Nervous dogs need guidance, they need to believe in their owner, which in their eyes is a leader. A lot can be done to help these dogs live a full life again.

For instance, dogs that are excessively shy and bark at every person or dog they encounter along the street may be gradually desensitized by making walks a routine. Not only will a routine calm down a dog but it may also turn into a pleasurable event. Passer-byers may toss a treat out for the dog, and the dog once shy, now will look forward to meeting new people. To learn more about behavior modification techniques read: Dog Behavior Modification

Relaxing a dog may take a lot of effort, here are some basic guidelines:

  • Exercise your dog. A tired dog has less chances of feeding their fear.
  • Study the sources of your dog nervousness and use positive reinforcement, counter-conditioning and desensitization
  • Show your dog your guidance and security.
  • Put your dog to work, inquire about the training method learn to earn to create a routine
  • At home, you can try a pheromone plug in diffuser
  • Invest in a Thundershirt when your dog must deal with frightening stimuli
  • If you believe in holistic remedies try Rescue remedy or Bach flowers
  • Learn T-TOUCH
  • As a last resort only, ask your vet about anti-anxiety meds

Nervousness does not necessarily mean that your dog is prone to behavioral issues, when caught early, an attentive owner may work on it on a timely matter. By recognizing the tell tail signs of upcoming nervousness, a dog may be taught that the anxiety may be managed and even overcome

Using T-Touch in dogs

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Comments 75 comments

Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

Great hub this should help people to understand how a dog feels when threatened. And to be more informed on how to handle the situation. Very helpful hub. Thanks from another dog lover.

byee profile image

byee 8 years ago

As usual, a well-thought out hub. I will forward this on.... =)

Leah Kay, The Pup profile image

Leah Kay, The Pup 8 years ago from Anywhere-USA

Thanks for this info!!

I believe I know where I make my error with Leah Kay, now! I pick her up and "Make" her meet new people....I won't do that anymore and maybe we can finally get her fear of new people out of her system....instead we will "ignore" her when we are out and talking to people, then maybe she will realize that "hey I'm not part of this and I want to"....Hope it works....

Sharon, Brian & Leah Kay

alexadry profile image

alexadry 8 years ago from USA Author

Let me know how it turns out! Perhaps if the new people could casually "drop" a treat while talking to you she will even learn to love them!

Janet 7 years ago

Good hub,but as I'm dealing with this issue with a person who bought a puppy from me right now, I'd like to add that even the most well-bred (meaning having parents who have sound temperaments and no fear issues) and best socialized (meaning in early puppyhood) dogs can become fearful when forced to live in an environment that makes them feel unsafe. The owner of this dog has, most likely through ignorance, did things to this dog in its first year and likely beyond that have destroyed the dog's trust in her, such as putting whitening products on the dog's face that burned the dog's skin -- and continuing to do so even after the skin was red and sore, and then when the dog started running away from her because it was afraid she was going to put more product on her face, the owner decided the dog was "shy" (this was the alpha female of the litter) and randomly throwing things at it to try to "desensitize" it and "toughen it up." (This on the advice of an instructor who also "flooded" this dog at 8 months old by tying it to a chair in the middle of the room and crowding its space with the other dogs in the class -- all much larger dogs -- and the instructor herself throwing things like rails and chairs so they would land behind the dog.) After being scolded not only by myself but several others for this treatment, the owner has become much more secretive about her "training methods." Although the dog is fine around everyone except the owner, around whom she displayed fear behaviors, this woman, probably because she changes her stories about what has happened to make it appear that she was not culpable, has now paraded the dog around to enough vets to finally find some who are prescribing mood-altering medicines for the dog. The NYC ASPCA, on their website, says that one sign of abuse is when the dog is fearful around its owner, yet, because other than the way she has treated this dog (all of which she denies now), this woman keeps the dog well-groomed, fed and provides adequate shelter for it, plus invests in medical and training for it, no one will believe that she's an abuser. I've tried repeatedly to get this dog back from this woman because I know that the dog is going through hell living with her. The woman has refused all of my offers to take the dog back and refund her money, leading me and others to wonder what pleasure she's deriving from this sad experience. I know in my heart that if I could only get this dog away from this woman, she would, because of her good breeding and socialization as a pup, rebound and once again because the joyfilled, loving, trusting pup I sold and which her littermates still are. Unfortunately, because vets and a well-known behaviorist under whose "care" this dog is define the nurture narrowly as socialization in early puppyhood, and since the well-known behaviorist refuses to call even the vet who was this dog's vet before she went to a new home, this woman is able to keep the dog and indeed, even is applauded for being such a "good pet owner." Yes, early socialization is critical for the development of a well-balanced, temperamentally sound dog. But one should remember that nurture also includes the treatment the dog is receiving every day of its life. If the dog can not trust its owner to take care of it and not hurt it repeatedly, then it would be unreasonable to expect the animal not to show fear around this person. If the vets don't see the fear behavior for themselves, if the dog presented to them displays none of the behaviors that the owner says it has (as in the case of the pup I sold), then they should dig a little deeper into the situation before rushing to prescribe meds that might help the abuser conceal his or her abuse.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 years ago from USA Author

All I can say is wow, it surely is amazing how people can destroy a well tempered dog, brought into this world with great genes and stable temperaments. This owner could have owned the most stable tempered dog in the world and ruined it within days. What she did was awful and repulsive. And what is worse is that she is able to hide it under a false reputation for being a good owner. I think the vets should have prescribed the meds to the owner not the dog!

I wonder though how can the vets dig deeper here to find the truth. This is a difficult situation. They very likely do not have sufficient proof. It would have been ideal to question those scars from the chemicals being used but if there is no trace now, there is really not much the vets can do.

This is more something that should be taken over by animal control but again they need proof of her mishandling the dog. Perhaps you may give them a warning of what you know about and they may follow through?

This may be a helpful hub:

My best wishes.. hopefully one day there will be enough proof to have this person brought to justice.

Rusty's Mom 7 years ago

What kinds of things, will cause a dog to lose trust in its owner? I've been having some "issues' with my dog...he's a mini-Aussie and I adore him. Problem is, he's always so anxious. He was a rescue, of sorts, so, I don't know exactly what happened to this dog, in his first year of life. I take him on regular walks... but, it's getting difficult because, he's constantly trying to eat every dog or cat, that crosses our path. I've been scratched, nipped at and, tripped by this dog, when he's on his quest to attack the other dogs. And, it doesn't matter what size the other dog is either. He paces at home. Is constantly panting.. and is always on edge. He throws himself at the glass patio doors, when somebody walks by, and starts barking. I've tried bark collars.. and spray bottles but neither of them has worked. I didn't like the bark collar (extremely low voltage) because it seemed like it only put a bandage on the problem. I've had him for almost three years now, and am just at a loss. I don't know if he's lost trust in me but, it's what it seems like. He still likes to crawl up in bed with me.. or lay at my feet on the couch. He gets a bit overzealous when he wants attention and gets in my face but, when I tell him to get down, he does. He kennels too... and, pretty much listens to me other than when we are out on walks...and he sees a dog or cat. Does it sound like he's not being responsive to me because of that loss of trust? Just curious.

I wrote a rescue about this...and got some good information and, we put it into practise but, really, very little has changed. So, I wrote the rescue back, and asked them to take the dog. I was told that I should just probably have him put down. Huh? What? This, from a rescue? What? Do they only take dogs that are perfect? Guess so. Made me lose a lot of faith in animal resuces... So.. what do I do?

alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 years ago from USA Author

Wow, I am surprised as well to hear this from a rescue, without even getting a chance to evaluate your dog.

Let's face it, you have a rescue dog. You really do not know what sort of baggage he has behind. At this point honestly I do not think it is worth it trying to figure out what happened to his past especially since dogs live in the present and react more because of learned experiences.

What do you mean he does not trust you? Does he appear fearful with you at all? Like if you pet his head does he cower, or if you move suddenly does he appear startled? The things are two here: either he was abused and is fearful or he is insecure because there is lack of leadership in the home.

I am wondering if it is just the latter. Maybe he just needs a calm, relaxed yet assertive leader. I know this may sound like something from the mouth of Cesar Milan, but since you stated after trying a lot of effort in correcting him ''it seemed like it only put a bandage on the problem'' it sounds to me like there is something deeper to deal with that at this point cannot be dealt with e-collars, spray bottles or other.

From your description he sounds like he is a nervous, anxious dog that feels the need to take charge of the home and the outdoors. This is seen mostly in dogs that think they are alpha. Only once the owner takes over the leader role, these dogs start calming down gradually.

I would stop allowing him in bed. In nature, only the leaders of the pack are allowed to sleep in elevated spots. I would also stop with the cuddling and too much attention. Do not feel sorry for him because he had a bad past. Do not resort to cuddling to make him feel better rather focus on the future. Please remember that this is not cruel, it is just natural..

Dogs in the wild do not have pack leaders petting them and cuddling. I am not saying that dogs should not be pet, but they should be pet at the right times, therefore only when they are in a calm and submissive mind.

Start NILIF training immediately. That is nothing in life is free training, google NILIF, there is a lot of info out there.

I know you may feel like you are the leader of the home because he obeys to you but being a pack leader is much more than having a dog sit or get off the bed on request. The fact he is asking you for attention is already a sign that he is pushy. Never pet him when he asks. Ignore him. Rather, when he is calm, call him to you and let him sit and pet. When you stop you stop. Ignore his requests for more.

Dogs often lose trust in their owners when they do not have leaders. Therefore they feel the need to be alert in the home and take over the role. This causes stress and the need to take charge of the situation both in the home and on walks.

I have 3 helpful articles for you that I have personally written:

This one is about leadership:

and this one is about distraction proofing dogs:

this is about leash pulling

Of course, a dog will not change attitude in one day, nor in a week, nor in a month. It takes lots of effort. Do not give up walking. Practice though in quiet roads if possible at first. I do not know if you ever tried using a prong collar but it may work wonders as it mimics the type of correction a mother dog gives to a pup. It pinches a bit the skin on the neck every time the dog pulls. You may need a trainer to fit it up for you. However, keep in mind sometimes this may worsen the problem. So you should see how your dog reacts to it.

I also recommend obedience training as well because it teaches the dog to be distraction proofed. You may want a trainer that will start with you and your dog individually while gradually adding other dogs.

If you have a friend that has a dog, try walking your dog together from a distance and then gradually closer as days go by, learn to recognize at which distance your dog reacts..

I know this may seem like a lot, but he needs your help. A dog behaviorist may be great, but not everybody may afford one. All your dog needs at this point is a firm leader and he must learn to obey to your commands out of the home as well. A sit is a sit no matter where you are.

I hope this may help a bit.I must say that the leadership role benefits owners greatly as well. I have 2 rotties I walk every day off leash and it feels very powerful to be their leader. Even with years of training, the work never ends..If you must be a leader, it is done 24/7 week ends included. Hope this does not discourage you, but just think how it may benefit both you and the dog. Let me know if you have other questions.

Kind regards

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Joni Solis profile image

Joni Solis 7 years ago from Kentwood, Louisiana

Good dog info here. Thank you for this hub.

Why pet rescues don't always want to take on trouble dogs...

Pet rescues are always full and have to move dogs in order to be able to save more. That is why they don't aways take on a dog that has behavior problems even if they had extra foster homes. They don't want a foster to end up with a dog that cannot be placed and then they end up keeping the dog and no longer fostering. Saving one messed up dog can mean many other dogs die because they cannot get into a foster home and then adopted.

Also many rescuers don't know how to fix these troubled dogs any more than the current unhappy owner.

If you love your dog - take the responsibility to keep working at finding a way to fix your dog's problem.

storywriter999 7 years ago

Great article again. This can be a very serious problem and leads to many dogs being sent to rescue shelters.

Leash DogTraining profile image

Leash DogTraining 6 years ago

Great article this subject needs attention especially with Xmas coming.

Its tnt profile image

Its tnt 6 years ago from God's own Country

Simply amazing hub. I know people who attack dogs when they feel its gonna hurt them, I am strictly against this and well any animal lover would be. I have advise most of the people to not to do so and let them live their lives, knowing the reason for the dog's behavior and getting to the temperament to do right when in such situation is essential.

This hub shows out such characteristics and when dogs behaves out its character. I hope people try to know dogs better and fine.

michael  6 years ago

i have a pitbull and i dont know why but allmost every time i pet him and he wants a belly rub i give him a belly rub and he licks my hand and kind of puts it in his mouth not to hurt me but playfully biting down on my hand it...doesn't hurt becuase he is not going at full force but i want him to stop so i say no and no and no and no and no evry time he does it but if i keep saying no he barks not an angry bark but an anxious bark...i want him to stop this happet before it turns into something!

Jack 6 years ago

Interesting, but shame it's just ripped from someone elses web site. Better off going to the original source rather than this ad spammer

alexadry profile image

alexadry 6 years ago from USA Author

JACK IT'S A SHAME YOU HAVE NOT DONE YOUR RESEARCH WELL.This is my original article.. anything else you on the web is somebody who has plagiarized my article. I do write under other names at times, but if you check the profile well you will see it is always me...I put the highest standards on providing original content... and people have plagiarized my content often and proper disciplinary action was taken...

alexadry profile image

alexadry 6 years ago from USA Author

Michael, perhaps instead of saying no it would be more effective to take your hand away and withdraw from the whole situation. If you say no and then go back to patting the dog may not be understanding well what you are asking him... I would stop all interactions and leave

koki 6 years ago

Hello, my maltese is 13yrs old, he has always been nervous but never anxious. It has been two weeks now that he cant stand being on his own, cries, follow us everywhere we go, even to the shower (when he hates the water) needs to sleep with us, cant stand a closed door, needs to be caressed and held. We are going crazy with his attitude, we feel prisoners of him. Any help,please? thanks in advance.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 6 years ago from USA Author

Often owners like dogs to follow them every where without even noticing how it may interfere in the dog/owner relationship. Often owners see this as a normal form of dog adoration and loyalty, yet it has its consequences. The dog grows dependent and over attached.

Give the dog some boundaries, do not let him follow you everywhere. Put a blanket on the floor and tell him to ''go to his place''. Install a baby gate so he will not follow you everywhere. Give a bone to eat when you must leave the room for a few minutes.

Don't give in to all his requests for attention. You decide when to pet him. Ignore all his requests, when you are ready to pet him, call him to you, ask him to do something and then pet. You are right to feel prisoner of him.. he is ruling the house! Give boundaries and enforce some rules, all dogs need this and behave well once they are implemented.. best wishes

Kate 6 years ago

Your article is very helpful and hopefully after putting into practice some of the boundaries tonight we will actually get some sleep! We already have a 1 year old Yorkie that we had from 10 weeks and he is a fantastic little fella who is an angel to walk, he sleeps in the kitchen at night (and always has done) and socializes great with all other dogs (big and small). On Saturday we brought home Bonnie a yorkie cross whom we had from a foster home of a rehoming centre. Bonnie is a lovely natured dog who has had a bad past and we are amazed at how well she has settled in the first few days. At first when we got home she was pacing around and wouldn't sit down, she ignored Archie (our yorkie) and wouldn't make eye contact with any of us. But today it has been lovely to see her and Archie out in the back garden playing and following each other around they have even licked each other, Archie would play with her all day long and has been itching for her to play with his toys with him but all she would do was watch (as if she didn't know how to play) but today she actually has played with toys as well which is great! The only problem we seem to be struggling with is her anxiety as last night she was crying and howling as well as pacing, scratching and jumping at the door, I worry the effect it will have on Archie as he has never bothered about sleeping in the kitchen and he is having to put up with all of this as well as us. We have just this minute put a stair gate up and we have come upstairs so that she cannot follow us and we will do this on and off before bedtime tonight. She has been left for a few hours in the day with Archie and there has been no mess when we return so it seems she is ok when she knows we have actually left the house but NOT when we leave to go to bed as we are still in the house! Thank you for your strong advice we will sit tight and hopefully re-inforce the boudaries that she needs. We know she slept in the foster carers bedroom so it might take her a while to get used to it but we will percevere. The only thing is I worry that she gets that worked up pacing and jumping and howling that she will hurt herself or make herself sick - I 'll let you know how we get on!!

Julya 5 years ago

Can you help PLEASEE?! I adopted this Four month old chihuahua/min pin mix from the pound. She was malnourished and i figured neglected. We keep her/feed her in a kennel in my bedroom. For the first two days she was scared and sat on our laps at all time. We fed her slightly warmed wet puppy food to put meat on her bones fasst (it was successful :) ) but as she's started getting more and more comfortable at the home she will have house training down one day then the next jump in your lap and pee on you. She will poo in the floor and if you try to stop her or discipline her she forces as much poo out as she possibly can and screams and sometimes bites.

We figured she was probably abused. So i thought the kennel was a good idea but she pees in the front every night and sometimes she'll poo in the blanket we give her and cover it up and finish sleeping on it...

She's nervous/anxious but i honestly don't know what sort of discipline i can do for her when she poo's in the house. I need to make sure she understands that it's not acceptable. We have three other dogs that are completely balanced and normal and are VERY well behaved.

I'm working with her; speaking quietly to her and encouraging her to explore and i'll even get down and crawl on the floor with her while she walks around (She seems to enjoy that) is there anything else i can do for her?

Michelle 5 years ago

Buba is a 6 year old wired haired small teckel aka sausage dog. She is our first child. She has always been well behaved.even with our 5 year old son. 6 months ago we moved countries. We use to live in a house with stairs and a garden and now we live in an apartment. She went to visit my inlaws for a few weeks, they also adore her and when we went to fetch her we noticed that she is scared of stairs, protective of her self and her things. She basically attacks my son and even us and bites. Before she would not need to go out in the night and now every morning she wees and poos all over. She almost never stays alone and is always or at home or in the office.....please help

alexadry profile image

alexadry 5 years ago from USA Author

Moving can really disrupt behaviors in dogs.. every thing starts over when a dog moves to a new place and this applies also with changing care givers even temporarily...your dog therefore needs to maintain the same routine as back at home with the same rules applied. Some dogs are more sensitive than others when moving.. my male for instance has a hard time moving.. he was completely house broken and just peed on my floor the first week in a new house..he also became more reactive and challenging to deal with.. give your dog some time to settle in.. exercise him more than usual.. a tired dog is a good dog..

It could also be that your inlaws spoiled her and allowed her to get away with things and now she is testing you.. up your leadership, ask a command before being pet, giving food , being let NILIF and apply it, it may let her get off her pedestel and go back to normal.. best wishes..

debbi 5 years ago

we have a 75lb female lab that we rescused 4yrs ago. she came w/issues and we thought we could help her. some issues were helped but now (since we got back from vacation and she was kenneled) something new has happened. she charged a dog, maybe 30lbs smaller than her and pulled me. when i got control i kept on walking her. it was a scarey moment-she never did that one-EVER!!! now i'm nervous to walk her-i don't want to be pulled again so i'm avoiding contact w/other people who walk their dogs. i do know that she can't be around high energy dogs. i have watched the dog whisperer for yrs. now and have put many of his suggestions into practice with success-she walks very close to me and on my left side and i try to walk in front of her but when she locks eyes or her ears perk up-she tries very hard to get in front-what can i do???? i'm 60yrs old who is not a strong female-I want her to be a success and i want to walk her w/confidence. can u help us??

alexadry profile image

alexadry 5 years ago from USA Author

Debbi, you should purchase the ''easy walk harness'' by premier to be able to control her better and then follow some of the tips outlines in my hub below, best wishes!

Mckenzie 5 years ago

This didn't help. At all. I tried doing this all of it it didn't work

alexadry profile image

alexadry 5 years ago from USA Author

McKenzie, these are very generalized tips, what problem is exactly your dog facing? I have a plethora of hubs addressing more in depth many problems related to anxiety...I can give you a few link if you provide more details..

julie cooper 5 years ago

Hello, I have a question that I really hope you can advise me on, my dog Cassie (4 yaer old Border Collie Bitch) is a fearful of noises,she starts by trying to hide,then shaking and panting, how should i calm her down?, should i leave her, or keep her in the down position until the shaking stops.

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alexadry 5 years ago from USA Author

Monica 5 years ago

I have an 18 month old Havanese who liked other people and dogs when he was a puppy (taken to training classes and dog parks). During the past Winter he did not see people or dogs much. Now he is seems fearful people and dogs he does not know. At dog parks he is curious, but will also drool profusely. He will run away with his tail between his legs. If approached he will growl and has a couple times nipped at dogs/people. Then he will follow them to smell them when they walk away (he seems to feel safe as long as they ignore him). I continue to take him to places with people/dogs in hopes that he will start to feel comfortable. When he has seen a person often, he does become comfortable with them. What else should I be doing? My leadership role is strong. He sleeps in his bed on the floor in my room (never in our bed). I always walk through doorways before him (he must wait until I say OK). He is not allowed to eat until I allow him. Treats are not taken from my hand until I give permission. I do not know why he has become anxious with unknown people/dogs. I believe he is protective of me. Earlier when my husband or kids would hug or kiss me, he would run over and bark. He has for the most part stopped this. He does have a very strong attachment to me. What can I try to ease his anxiety in public.

BJacks 5 years ago

So here is our story. Buddy is an approximately 2 year old Black English Lab. The man we adopted him from had previously rescued him from the Humaine Society. They had picked him up at approx. 1 year old, wandering on the side of the freeway with his hunting tags still attatched to his collar. After all avenues were exhausted to contact his owner, he was put up for adoption. The man who adopted him, let's call him Joe, had Buddy for around 7 months before he decided to rehome him. He was very forthcoming, so it seemed. He simply said that having two dogs was too much for him to handle, and that he worked too much to give them both the attention the needed. So he kept his original dog.

Buddy came with a pinch/pronged collar, a leash, medical records, and the most loving personality. He is very friendly as most labs are, and also very energetic. He is amazing on a leash (as long as he's wearing his pinch collar), he has no food aggression, knows the standard commands, heels well, waits at the door for you to enter, does not eat until he hears the "ok" command. As you can see, we scored.

The problem lies most animals (and humans) are, he was nervous/apprehensive when he first came home. As I was the one feeding and staying home with him all day, he naturally followed me around. As time went on, we noticed that he always wanted to be close, lay on your feet, or lean against you when he sat. We thought "oh how sweet". Until we realized it never ceased. He is constantly on our heels. To the point that several times this summer he stepped on the back of my flip flops and I nearly bit the dust. Or when I'm simply walking from one side of the living room to the other, he's so close that if I turn quickly to head the opposite direction, I trip over him and have nearly fallen.

I was looking over the list of subtly signs of anxiety, and these are his symptoms:

*panting(even when he seems to be at rest)

*licking his lips (ugh! at first we thought it was just something he did before he goes to sleep, but it seems he'd do it all night if we let him)

*yawns all the time

*hiding behind/under our legs if we're sitting; let me just say that he is terrified of all loud noises. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, trains, airplanes, thunder, fireworks etc. He has been in a dead sleep and leaped onto my childrens' beds sitting on their chest, refusing to get down! (they are only 7 & 9)Also onto whoever's lap is the closest, guest or not.

*When he is scared, you cannot, outside of physically picking him up, get he away/off of you. If you push, he pushes back. All voice commands are out the window.

Please help me help my baby. We refuse to rehome him simply because he has issues. We love him, and he is seen as part of the family. Any advice will be appreciated. Sorry for such a long post, I just wanted to be specific. Thank you again!

alexadry profile image

alexadry 5 years ago from USA Author

Here is a helpful article I wrote a while ago:

To build confidence enroll in obedience classes, try clicker training and agility. Best wishes!

enron 4 years ago

our 3 yr old female cocker spaniel has suddenly become terrified of me. i have predominately cared for her rather than my other half because of her long commute to work etc and as such she is a little more 'my' dog than hers, following my routine and mainly my commands - a proper daddy's girl.

we were playing completely normally one evening last week - she's a very rough and tumble dog - then all of a sudden she started screaming, not yelping, but screaming, and could not get away from me fast enough. her eyes were huge and white and intense with abject terror. now she can only be in the same room as me when my other half is with me. she takes treats from me, and always after a command, but will then run away. she constantly stares at me and if we make eye contact she cowars and cannot wait to leave the room.

a week has passed now and there has been no improvement. we have tried to keep our normal routine going, and we have tried to ignore her behaviour, rather than pet too much when she is scarred which we feel will reinforce the fear in her. she is better when we are out of the house, and on walks she responds on the whole to my commands, coming back and letting me put the lead back on when time to go home etc.

she has always been an increadibly confident dog, fearful of almost nothing and very adventurous with meeting new people, places and other dogs. Everything to her is fun and exciting and like a game - always good tempered - she even loves to sit and watch fireworks.

but her personality has now completely changed. i don't want her to be frightened of me. what can i do to get her back to normal?

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Sounds like something scary happened to her in that room and it is hard to say what. It could be she had some sort of sudden pain and she associated it with that room and you. It could be she stepped on a piece of glass, twisted her leg, or something else that could not be acknowledged. Now, that room and your presence scares her.

Of course, the best way to overcome this fear is to face it. You can try to make that room a happy place to be. Try to sit on the floor and leave toys around. Leave high value treats around the room and let her find them. Try feeding her only in that room when meal time comes and if she is too afraid to eat her meal there do it gradually by putting the food bowl near the entrance and then daily bring it more and more inside. Collar and leash are snapped on only in that room. Nothing fun happens in the other rooms all good things happen exclusively in that room.

Give it a try but go very gradually. Also try not to make sudden movements or talk loud at first in that room. Keep it very subtle, it's better if you are sitting than standing up. If she is having a hard time staying in that room with you alone, have your significant other there too and then have her gradually and gradually get closer to the exit and eventually leave for a brief second increasing over the days her absence.

Your dog has to learn that nothing bad happens when she is alone with you, on the opposite great things happen. Engage her in a game and if she takes treats and runs away after taking them, try to prolong the time she eats the treats in the room by giving a jackpot of treats, that means, you toss several of them on the floor and she will have to eat them all one by one. Try all of this gradually, ignore her fearful reactions but acknowledge and encourage the times she seems bold and tries to overcome her fears, even if tentatively. It can be done, best wishes!

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

My dog is generally a very calm dog, but there are two things that make him very nervous. One is thunderstorms. I am not afraid of thunderstorms, and I try not to coddle him when he gets scared, but he is shaking and drooling and panting until it is over.

The other is the neighbor dogs. He is very afraid of them, even though they are on the other side of the fence. He won't pee if they are outside, no matter how badly he has to go. I have spent some time training him (sit, down, catch), with them there so he can learn to ignore them, and he will do better for a little while, and then he gets scared again. I don't want to have to outside with him every single time he needs to potty - I paid a lot of money for the fence!

P.S. I do walk him every day.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

I have two helpful links for fear of thunderstorms, I use these tools and approaches with my clients:

This article applies to barking at people in the yard, but can be used as a behavior modification program with dogs too:

Debbie 4 years ago

I have a 4 year old Jack Russell Terrier who is on Phenobarbital for epilepsy. In the last few months, he has taken to anxiety attacks whenever someone in my apartment building hammers on something or when the 2 year old upstairs starts running around. We've resolved the 2 year old running issue by politely asking the parents if they could get it to stop. It has, but the hammering continues from other apartments. My dog gets tons of exercise and never gets coddled when he goes into his "shivering mass of fur" attacks. He pants, tries to crawl into my lap and vibrates. If I take him out when the hammering starts, he doesn't want to come back inside. He stops and tries to turn around every time. My girlfriend suggested giving him a 1/4 of a valium pill, but I won't even take it myself, let alone give it to my dog and even so, I'm not sure how compatible it would be with his meds.

If you have an easy solution, I'm all ears.

Can you help me??

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Have you tried thundershirt? it has an excellent percentage of success. What you need to do is desensitize and countercondition. I have two excellent hub about this;

This is about thunder but you can use the same approach with any noise:

sarabenn27 4 years ago

I am hoping you have any advise for us. My husband and I have two siberian huskies. One older female is 3 1/2 and our younger male is 1 1/2. The female is great except she is very excitable and stubborn but overall we have little issues with her. Our younger male was raised and trained exactly the same way as the female but he is a completely different dog (genetically I think). Ever since we brought him home at 12 weeks he has been very sensitive, nervous and obsesses over affection. I took him to puppy socials and puppy training when he was young just like my other dog, and even then he was known as the dog that loved to pick on smaller shy dogs. The trainers just said that he would grow out of it and to help him turn his focus onto something else. Well now that he's 1 1/2 he still likes to pick on smaller dogs, puppies or any dog that seems to be afraid. He goes right up to them in dog parks and tries to bite them. He also barks like crazy at dogs when he is on a leash as we are walking. It's like he is being super protective of us or he is afraid of those dogs, I can't tell. But sometimes he doesn't seem to mind them if they come up to us it just depends on the dog. He also goes to a doggy day care for a whole day per week and they say he does great. He doesn't seem to pick on dogs there but I have noticed that he is very excitable and they have to give him time outs. I am just not sure what is going on with him. Our female couldn't be anymore friendly, so its not like he learned it from her. Do you have any thoughts?

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

You really would need a trainer experienced in behavioral problems to assess the situation. It is important to recognize from the body language if this fear based, or if the barking at other dogs is simply frustration from being restrained on a leash and being unable to greet and meet. Both need a different approach. If this is fear based, the article below may help:

Poppy 4 years ago

Hi - hoping you might have some advice for me. Sooty is a 7yo Shih-tzu poodle cross who has been rehomed several times (the lst time because the owners went into a retirement village). He is a nice little dog and very playful, but he is exhibiting a lot of anxiety behaviours - panting, barking, nipping etc. the one that is really puzzling me is that he can't stand people leaving.

If I get a visitor, he will bark and carry on for a bit and then just settle down, as soon as they get up to go however, all hell breaks loose. He barks hysterically, snarls and chases and nips them. If I pick him up so people can leave safely he struggles in my arms and bites them if they try to touch him, Any idea what that might be about and what I can do about it? He doesn't seem to react that way when I leave for work - he just sits and watches me leave.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

I had a similar issues with a person asking me online on a website, I will gladly provide the link:

Best wishes!

Poppy 4 years ago

Thank you , that is very helpful:)

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Happy to hear my hub on how to relax anxious dogs was helpful.

Emily 4 years ago

We recently rescued a great Pyrenees mix. She's amazingly obeduent. A few days later we got another great pyrenees mix. Both are female. Both reported to be good with other dogs. The first one attacked the 2nd. & now she's very fearful. I keep them separated except when supervised. I take them for walks together & feed them together. I keep the first dog under control by distracting her if she starts staring. I practically have to drag dog #2 on walks because she's so scared & she doesn't always eat when I offer her food. I took her to the vet in case she was sick, but as soon as we were in the car without dog #1 she was happy & relaxed. Both dogs are fine with cats & the neighbor's dogs

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Unfortunately, your situation is not unique and there are many on the same boat. You may find this article helpful>:

Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

As a Letter Carrier, I notice time and time again that dog owners make the mistake of yelling at their dogs when they bark at me. Instead of calming them down, this always makes the dogs bark louder and aggravates them even more. I believe they think that the owner's yelling is the equivalent of human barking. Have you noticed this behavior?

alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

Yes! mel carriere, getting nervous and yelling will only aggravate the situation and yes, the dog may end up thinking the owner is "barking' with them to send the mail man away. This is why I encourage dog owners to get their dogs used to the mail carrier from an early age . You may find my read "why dogs hate the mail man" interesting,

iguidenetwork profile image

iguidenetwork 2 years ago from Austin, TX

Wow, never thought that shedding is a sign of anxious dogs. Maybe this could be likened with a stressed human's falling hair.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Yes, indeed my Rottie started shedding a lot when we moved with all the changes going on. You are right, it sounds like the same thing happens in humans as well!

Aidan 2 years ago

My dog does a lot of the characteristics you mention especially these ones:

. Eyes showing white part (whale eyes)

. Avoidance of eye contact

. Yawning

When we got her (a German Shepard) as a puppy the seller remarked that "she's the only one that follows us around all the time" which we thought was cute, but now 3.5 years later, it hasn't stopped, and not only does she follow me around, but also anybody else, the cat, and other people or animals if we bring her to visit friends. It has become a problem. If someone or something moves from the room she is in to another room, she has to follow. I'm tired of having to repeatedly say "Stay" all the time. She obeys ok, but it takes constant effort.

Since she's been like this since before we got her as a puppy, and all her 4 sisters that were raised in the exact same environment and did NOT show these signs, *it has to be a natural problem she has herself*. She's perfect in other ways, but this is a problem.

And its a problem because we are moving country soon and I'm seriously considering leaving her behind (in a good new home obviously). I do love her and she does us, but really she causes more stress than joy and its got to the stage where I can't move around the house in peace at all ever, and I also can't bring her with me when I go to visit people.

Just though I'd write this here - I don't usually comment on blogs, but your article is interesting, and you may have some ideas.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Aidan, I have a hub about this with some tips in the link below:

Aidan 2 years ago

Thanks Alexadry - I've tried some of the points mentioned there before with little success, but some are new to me, so I'll give them a try.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Good luck, and you can always ask for a trainer/behavior consultant to walk you through.

Jenn-Anne profile image

Jenn-Anne 2 years ago

Nice hub! I have two dogs - one calm and relaxed, the other more tense and nervous. In this case, since they grew up in the same environment I believe their behavioral differences are more nature than nuture. Fortunately the tense one is starting to improve. Remaining calm and consistent as an owner makes a big difference. Thanks for sharing your tips - voted up!

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for the votes up Jenn-Anne!

Dee 2 years ago

Hello I have a GS mix with rotti, i ran a DNA test which stated that she may have some borzo, bloodhound and even maltese. Any way she was taken away from her mother at 4 weeks because her milk dried up and i got her when she was almost 8 weeks old. Paid 50 bucks, apparently accident liter. Since then she has been in puppy socials, obediance classes (4) and she is now 2 years old. I get very frusterated because of all the hard work, she is a great dog and has an exceptional bond. At around 1 years old, she was on leash with me and was attacked by two dogs, i too was attacked. Since then she has shown alot of leash aggresion. I am working with my 2nd private trainer. She is very nervous with people and sudden movements and other dogs. She goes to the dog park and gets along pretty well, goes up to strangers and plays with dogs. At times she bullys the small dogs or the seemingly weak dogs. Its seems like she gets a kick out of anyone or thing that is scared of her. She also has an intense prey drive. I hope things get better i love her, we have worked hard can one incident truly mess up the trust between us?

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Yes, unfortunately one episode can have such an impact. Some dogs are more resilient than others and bounce back, others remained traumatized--just like people. I hope you found a good trainer invested in positive, force-free methods as emotions are what need to be changed. Have you ever heard about the "look at that dog method"? here's a link that explains it. If you follow me on pinterest from my profile page, I have a board on dog aggression and one on fear with many helpful tips.

Valerie 2 years ago

my son has a 13yr dog always been lovely nature, my son recently got a rescue dog, all was good but suddenly the 13 yr old is becoming nervouse scratching doors aggressive won't settle at night. What can they do

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Introductions of new dogs should take place gradually so the new dog can adjust and the resident dog won't get too upset. Keep them in separate areas, take them on walks together, but don' let them interact as of yet. The adjustment period may last anywhere between 5 days and 2 weeks. Try to keep your resident's dog routine the same, give the resident dog attention. If the two dogs are separated by a baby gate, give a treat to the resident dog every time she looks at the new dog. Make sure the 13 year old doesn't have any medical problems that may cause nervousness (not hearing well or seeing well makes some dogs more nervous when being around other dogs)

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

There are tablets to calm anxious dogs, but it sounds more like your dog needs a behavior professional to come into your house and see what is exactly triggering this reaction. Is your dog anxious, or being possessive? Does this behavior happen near a "hot spot" like the couch, entry ways? near toys? near you? by the kitchen?

theBAT profile image

theBAT 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing. Would the dog's breed affect its propensity for being anxious or nervous? I often observe my Chihuahuas acting as such. Very informative hub.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

That's why genetic predisposition is in the list, but no generalization on breed can be made as there are no black and white rules. I have met some pretty confident Chihuahuas. Smaller breeds can be more predisposed though to "small dog syndrome".

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 2 years ago

Excellent reading. I have have a nervous dog right now because it's raining-- he's afraid of the rain and when it rains he gets a lot of anxiety, he gets tense and he shakes and he won't eat or lay down... He just sits there pressed up against someone's leg shaking like a leaf until the rain stops. He won't even come if someone calls him. Otherwise he's very obedient and happy go lucky, it's just the rain thing. I'm going to try some of your suggestions here.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Also, look at my hub on counterconditioning, changing the emotions about things dogs dislike:

Heidi L Idrovo profile image

Heidi L Idrovo 2 years ago from New York

This was so helpful! I have a one year old yorkie who is very shy, nervous and tense. She's very loving and we're very loving towards her but she has moments of extreme anxiety. On walks she tends to drool a lot and she gets very low with her tail between her legs when people try to pet her, even if she knows them! The only people she's very comfortable with is me and my dad (which is very odd because she hardly sees him but she follows him everywhere and seems so relaxed). I want to socialize her with other dogs because sometimes I think her behavior is do to her being the only dog in the house but I'm afraid of making it worse. I want her to be happy and carefree but sometimes she worries me!

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Hello heidi, living with a fearful dog certainly poses several challenges. If you go on my profile and follow me on pinterest, I have a whole board full of hubs dedicated to fearful dogs with plenty of tips.

Jimmy 19 months ago


We recently had a baby and our 10 year old dog is super nervous when in same room or around the newborn. What is strange, majority of time she demonstrates nervous behavior, and once in a while she does not. Our other dog and cat are fine. The 10 year old dog has always been afraid of loud bangs, fireworks, nail guns, motorcycles, etc. It is sad because we used to all sleep in the same room, now, the dog sleeps in the furthest room from our bedroom in a corner. Usually the cause for nervousness passes and dog is fine. Now with baby I'm worried dog will get worse because baby is here to stay. Any suggestions how to overcome this behavior is helpful, thank you.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 19 months ago from USA Author

Try to find out when she demonstrates nervous behavior. Is it when the baby cries? makes noises? when you carry your baby in your arms? when in the stroller? Once you identify what triggers her nervousness, keep her at a distance from the baby where she doesn't react ( under threshold level) and feed high-value treats. So if your dog gets nervous when the baby cries, feed treats in a sequence until the crying stops, make the treats very small so you don't overfeed her. If your dog loves her kibble you can use that so you can use a portion of her meals for the purpose of helping her. You want to change her emotions about the baby, making the baby a predictor of good things. Place the baby's blanket on the floor and place some treats on it so your dog associates the baby's smell with good things. When the baby appears, treat, when the baby is away no treats. By doing this you are counterconditioning your dog by changing her emotional response. It's important though to not overwhelm her otherwise she'll be sensitized instead of desesensitized. so if for now she's not comfortable coming to a certain distance from the baby, don't force her.

Also, look up these resources in google:

Doggone Safe, The Family Dog, Dogs and Babies Learning, The Liam J. Perk Foundation, Living with Kids & Dogs Colleen Pelar

lynn 7 months ago

I have a 3 month old terrier schitzu Chihuahua mix that the vet said was only about two to three weeks old when i found him. I have done my best to care for him getting him vet cks vitamins formula and teaching him to eat his puppy food buying him everything from clothes to travel bags so he can travel to work with me in comfort. He plays and socializes with my grandkids and cats but if I discipline him he freaks out an cries like hes being attacked or severely beaten. he has had a swat on bottom or on nose for chewing or tearing up his potty papers but tonight when i tried to reach in his pen to pick him up he freaked out again and his tooth punctured my finger I don't understand his high anxiety issues or how to help him any ideas please?

alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 months ago from USA Author

Sounds like your dog is very fearful and not used to being handled. Please stop any form of physical discipline. He is associating hands with something negative and needs to learn instead trust. Here is my article on how to deal with dogs who don't like to be picked up.

lynn 7 months ago

thanks for your response. I have read the recommended article and find it helpful. I am going to address this to my vet and maybe get some help from a trainer as well. He is a sweet dog I hope I can get him to feel secure in his environment with loving training.

Shawna N Kennemor profile image

Shawna N Kennemor 4 months ago

My 2 1/2 year old male Yorkie (has not been neutered) has been having episodes where he acts very strange. About 6 weeks ago he suddenly started pacing, crying, whining, howling (like a hound dog), hunching on his pillow, and panting like dogs do when they are stressed. This went on nonstop for 4 hours. If he laid down it would just be for a minute and he would whine the entire time. It wasn't normal whining either. It was whining that I had never heard before. Then after 4 hours he just stopped. The sameyeshadow thing happened today. Then a few hours later he just quit. I have no idea what is going on and I am hoping someone can tell me what is going on. There aren't any female dogs around here that I know of anyway. Can someone please help me? When he does this he is pitiful and his heart is racing. Please help!

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 months ago from USA Author

Hello Shawna, have been away from my desk for a week. What is the "shadow thing" you mention? Have these episodes subsided?

jo 3 months ago

hi i would like to know why my dog shakes whos a staffy..i have a 5 and a half mth old baby and in the mornings hes great hes excited and wants to see her i sit down with her and let him say hello and he licks her face etc then i have to tell him to get down otherwise hel be there all day licking her lol anyway hes fine all day long i have cuddles with him as well hes not being left out atal..then when it comes to me taking her to have a bath early eve he starts to shake when i tried to move him into the lounge he wouldnt i had to force him once..she does cry sometimes before a bath as shes tired and he shakes which i can understand that he prob doesnt like her crying as hes worried for her but she doesnt cry all the time and he still does it when i take her out the room..hes an excellent dog hes 6 this year ive had him since he was 1half he was bought up with kids and other dogs and hes so loving and it is only at this time that he shakes would you know why?

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