Dog Anxiety Problems – How to Deal with an Anxious Dog

Like us, dogs have anxieties and fears. A dog’s anxieties, may not be the same as our own anxieties, but they cause stress and physical reactions just the same.

Some common dog anxiety problems include –

  • Separation anxiety – A dog gets anxious when left alone.
  • Noise anxiety – A dog becomes fearful when exposed to loud or unusual noises. Some examples include fireworks, thunderstorms, garbage trucks, and more.
  • Travel anxiety – The car is like a den, but dogs are unaccustomed to moving dens. Therefore, they may become unsure and stressed over something so new and unexpected.
  • Confinement anxiety – A dog gets anxious when he feels trapped or confined. If a threat should arise, a confined dog may be unable to escape or flee.

Symptoms of Dog Anxiety


When dogs are anxious, they may engage in repetitive or displacement behaviors to relieve their stress. For example, when we are anxious, we may pace, bite our nails, or play with our hair.

Dogs may also pace, groom, and more. Some dog anxiety behaviors may lead to property destruction, may cause us harm, or may simply be undesirable to our human sensibilities. This may include –

  • Non-stop barking.
  • Chewing up furniture, walls, shoes, garbage, and anything else in sight.
  • Pooping and peeing in the house, crate, or other confinement area.
  • Eating his own poop.
  • Aggression toward people, dogs, or other animals.

Punishment or aversive techniques will do little to stop these anxious dog behaviors in the long-run, because punishment does not address the source of the problem, which is the dog’s anxiety. In fact, suppression of these displacement behaviors, through pain and dominance methods, will make the problem worse, because pain increases stress and uncertainty.

Dog Anxiety Solution 1 – Desensitization

One of the best ways to help a dog deal with his anxiety issues, is by slowly desensitizing him to the problem stimulus.

In the desensitization process, we start with a weak version of the stimulus that is triggering the anxiety attack.

The stimulus must be weak enough, so that my dog is able to stay calm in its presence. Then, I get him to focus on me, by doing eye-contact commands or simple obedience exercises.

If my dog is able to focus and stay in-control, I reward him with a very high priority treat. For desensitization purposes, I usually bust out the really good stuff. I try to pick a highly aromatic or smelly treat that my dog loves, but does not usually get to eat. The smell will help to engage his nose, and further distract him from the source of his anxiety.

When he is comfortable with this exercise, is calm, and able to follow simple commands, I very slowly raise the strength of the problem stimulus. I make each session short, fun, and very rewarding.

In this way, my dog learns alternative behaviors for dealing with stressful situations. He also learns to associate something that was previously a source of fear and stress, with something positive (nice smells, yummy treats), and with being calm.

Dog Anxiety Solution 2 – Calm Environment

Another important aspect of helping an anxious dog, is to create a calm and predictable environment for him, in his daily life.

  • Fixed routine – I set a fixed schedule for feeding, walking, play-time, leaving the house, coming home, and more. I also establish a fixed set of rules, and a consistent way of enforcing them. A very fixed routine and rule-set, helps our dog understand what to expect from us, and also what we expect from him in return. Greater certainty reduces anxiety and stress.
  • Staying calm - Most dogs are very good at picking up the energy of the people around them. My Shiba Inu, for example, is very sensitive to what I am feeling. If I get stressed and anxious, he picks up on that immediately and becomes anxious himself; but with a hundred times more gusto! Therefore, it is important for us to stay calm and in-control.
  • Relaxing massage – Some trainers suggest giving our dog a massage to help him relax. There is also the special TTouch massage method, which uses circular finger motions to help relax our dog’s body.

I tried the TTouch method briefly on my Shiba Inu, but it did not seem to have much of an effect on him. Desensitization exercises, together with a fixed routine and consistent rules, helped us most.

Dog Anxiety Solution 3 – Calming Equipment


There are a variety of products designed to help calm our dogs. The attraction of such products, is that they require little to no work from us. However, it is also unclear how effective they truly are.

1. Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP)

DAP is a synthetic chemical that was developed based on a hormone produced by nursing mother dogs. Mother dogs produce this hormone to help their puppies feel calm and secure. It also helps the mother dog establish a positive bond with her puppies.

Scientific studies *do* show that DAP has a positive effect on puppies. However, it is unclear whether DAP helps with anxiety problems in adult dogs.

There are also a variety of natural calming scents, including lavender, and other herbal remedies.

2. Dog Calming Music

“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast, To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”
~~[William_Congreve]

Music can certainly help calm us down and soothe our nerves. Therefore, it is not such a big stretch to imagine that it can also be helpful to our dogs. However, the wrong kind of music can actually increase anxiety in dogs.

What is the right kind of dog music?

According to sound researcher Joshua Leeds,

“Rock music, jazz, heavy metal made them more anxious. Classical slowed them down. It just relaxed them in a way that the other music seemed to irritate them.”

~~[Want to Calm Fido Down? Try Music!]


3. Thundershirt

The Thundershirt looks like a dog winter coat. It wraps around the torso of a dog, and works by exerting constant pressure on the dog’s body. Proponents argue that this pressure, can have a calming effect on the dog’s nervous system.

However, the only study I found was a very limited experiment, from an unsubstantiated source. Therefore, it is unclear whether the claims made on the effectiveness of Thundershirts are true.

Note – Pressure wraps will not work on all dogs. Some dogs may get even more anxious, when they experience continuous pressure on their body. In addition, it is unlikely that pressure wraps can fully solve our dog’s anxiety issues. Wraps and other calming equipment, are commonly used together with desensitization and other dog behavior modification techniques, to achieve true long-term success.

Depending on the dog and the situation, you may need to incorporate training with the cape to show an effect. The Anxiety Wrap recommends an 11-step treatment program for separation anxiety that includes using the wrap and leaving toys filled with favorite food treats for the dog to enjoy while you are gone.

~~ [ Putting the Squeeze on Doggie Anxiety ]

Some people also use clocks or heartbeat pillows, to help calm new puppies.

Dog Anxiety Solution 4 – Medication

Do not medicate your dog with over-the-counter human drugs, on your own. Dogs have very different physiology than humans, and dosage is very dependent on weight.

I always consult with my vet before giving my dog any medication.

Some medications used to suppress a dog’s anxiety response include –

  • Clomipramine(Anafranil) – This drug was originally developed to treat OCD in humans. With dogs, it is sometimes prescribed to treat OCD and separation anxiety issues.
  • Fluoxetine(Prozac,Sarafem,Fontex) – Fluoxetine is perhaps most well-known by its tradename Prozac. Prozac is used to treat heavy depression, OCD, and serious eating disorders (Bulimia nervosa) in humans. Eli Lily makes a special Prozac for dogs called Reconcile.

For lonely dogs with separation anxiety, Eli Lilly brought to market its own drug Reconcile last year. The only difference between it and Prozac is that Reconcile is chewable and tastes like beef.

~~[Pill-Popping Pets]

  • Sedatives – Powerful sedatives such as benzodiazepine (benzo) are prescription only. Some lighter sedatives such as antihistamines (Benadryl) and valerian can be obtained as over-the-counter medications for humans. Do not give sedatives or any other medication to dogs, without first consulting with a veterinarian.

The dog medication business is now a very profitable enterprise, and there are a large number of dog drugs available for purchase. These medications treat anything from separation anxiety, OCD, and depression, to motion-sickness, forgetfulness, and obesity. Most dog medications are short term solutions and may have serious side effects.

Dog Anxiety Problems

I believe that the best way to help our dogs with their anxiety issues, is through desensitization, as well as a calm and relaxed home environment.

Dog calming equipment and medication are very tempting solutions, because they involve little to no effort from us. However, their long-term effectiveness is highly questionable. These methods work by suppressing or muting the effects of anxiety, rather than addressing the source of the anxiety itself.

This is in contrast with desensitization and home management techniques, which target the anxiety stimulus, and teaches the dog new ways to cope with fear and stress. Rather than just suppressing symptoms, desensitization helps to build a dog’s confidence, and promotes a stronger bond between him and his human companions.

Ultimately, behavior modification and desensitization techniques lead to long-lasting effects, and a better quality of life for a dog and his family.

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Comments

  1. Stacey says

    I need help- I adopted a german sheppard/golden retriever a year ago. She was home sheltered for her mother and father both died when she and her brothers were born. She loves my jeep. That is the only place she wants to be. In her kennel in jeep. She has horable anxiety. She paces, eats poop, poop in house. We tried the whole desensatising with treats and as soon as rewards are done she is ready to go back to jeep. My new neighbors have called humain society. I am meeting with them in the morning. I am just trying to decide if it can be fixed or if euthenizing her is the only solution..We love her but a car is no place to live. We have had her on benadryl as well as paxil for anxiety did not work.. Please help

  2. Maggie says

    Hello! I have a 2 year old rescue named Maximus. Max has developed a fear of the dishwasher and washing machine. At first it was just those 2 things that would make him anxious, but now it’s progressed to baths/showers, and sometimes he starts to have an anxiety attack as soon as we walk into the house from being out. It’s almost like he doesn’t want to walk into the house…he’s afraid to. I’ve taken him to the vet and ruled out physical issues. The vet gave us Fluoxetine, and he’s been taking it twice a day for 10 days, and no change. It’s hard to do the desensitize exercises because once he does start an attack, he will not take any treats. Any help you could give us would be greatly appreciated.

    • shibashake says

      When I was doing desensitization exercises with Sephy, the most important thing is to always keep him below his reactivity threshold. The key is to help Sephy start to associate a previously scary or stressful stimulus with positive and calm experiences. Therefore, I have to start small, with a very weak version of the trigger stimulus, and *very slowly* build up his tolerance in a positive and structured way.

      The more positive and calm experiences that Sephy has, the more confidence he builds, and the more calm he is in the future. Similarly, bad experiences and panic attacks will undermine that confidence, significantly set back desensitization training, and cause his anxiety to worsen.

      I conduct desensitization in a structured environment where I am in total control of the strength of the trigger stimulus. In this way, I make sure never to expose Sephy to more than he can handle. I stop and dial back the strength of the stimulus as soon as I notice any sign of heightened anxiety, and way before it goes into a full blown panic attack. For example, if my dog is anxious about the sound of water or the sound of certain machines, I make a taping of the stressful sound. Then I start by playing it back *very very softly*. It has to be soft enough that my dog can tolerate it *without* going into panic mode.
      More on how I do sound desensitization exercises.
      ASPCA article on desensitization and counter-conditioning.

      Desensitization can be counter-intuitive and complex, so when I first started doing exercises with Sephy, I got help from several professional trainers who could help me identify the key triggers to Sephy’s stress, and give me pointers on how to desensitize Sephy in a safe and effective way.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      http://www.apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  3. Steve says

    I have a 12 1/2 yr old Shiloh shepherd he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at age 4 and now neuropathy. I believe the neuropathy has helped with any pain he might have from the dysplasia, we started walking hills almost daily 6 months ago as he was really weak, he improved greatly but his neuropathy of course slowly continues.
    Worse thing I see now he’s become so anxious at night he is so frightened to walk in the house now especially at night, what is senior dementia and what is the best treatment option for that at his age.
    He has two other younger canine companions and plays with them during the day a little but, Iam also concerned for there mental state while he’s around at night I’ve been letting the Shiloh sleep in our van at night as he seems calmest there. My wife is concerned with it being too cold at times he’s a long hair with double coat, and throughout his life has always gravitated towards any cold areas. I think he’s fine with any cold, and the van has no seats with beds in the back, my biggest concern is, is the cold bad for his joints.

  4. Jo says

    I have a 4 year old Hungarian vizsla. She will play with other dogs she meets out walking or at agility classes but can be nervous of other dogs on some situations. We recently got a Hungarian vizsla puppy who is 7 weeks old but our older dog is very nervous of her and will not be in the same room. If they are she will try to get away and shakes if she can’t. They have both been crate trained and the puppy is mainly confined to the kitchen when not crated. This allows the older dog to relax in other living areas she has her crate in the sitting room but it is now left open at all times. The puppy comes into the sitting room, supervised, in the evening but the older dog will then leave. How can we reduce our older dogs stress and help her accept the new family member. I have been treating her every time she is near the puppy but this is rare. She did relax and lay down after about 10 mins, in the car crate today. The crate is divided and I put a blanket so she couldn’t see puppy either but initially she wouldn’t lay down and shook.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Jo,
      Dog behavior is very context dependent, so the temperament of both dogs, past experiences, daily routine, training, and more, all matter. Without seeing the dogs or knowing any of these things, it would be difficult to even make good guesses.

      When I had problems with my Shiba Inu, we visited with several professional trainers and it was helpful to have someone observe my dog, read his body language, and guide me in identifying the source of his behaviors. The trainer also helped me with timing, technique, reading body language, and more.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      More on how I went about finding a trainer for my dog.

      With my Shiba Inu, I helped him be more calm around other dogs by doing dog-to-dog desensitization exercises. The key with desensitization is to start small, with a very weakened version of the “other dog” stimulus, and *very slowly* build up my dog’s tolerance and confidence.

      Positive and successful events will help my dog to build confidence. Similarly, reactive/fearful events and panic attacks will undermine that confidence and significantly set back training. Therefore, I manage things very carefully so that I not only maximize successes, but also minimize scary encounters.
      More on how I did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises with my Shiba Inu.
      More on what I do when introducing a new dog.

  5. Amber says

    Hi! My husband and I moved about a month ago to a completely new environment. About three weeks ago we got two kittens as well. My Shorkie Phantom has been acting very strange since we got here and even more so when we got the kittens. (He and the cats get along very well) Lately he has been hiding under the couch or under the bed and it takes a lot of effort to get him out. He rarely eats anymore. He poops in the house which started about a week ago, most of the time its not solid. He shakes a lot now, and he looks at us with a face that makes you think he got into trouble. He doesn’t go near my husband anymore and rarely comes near me. He used to be a very sweet dog and always by my side! Hes only a year and a half old as well. What can I do to help him?

    • Amber says

      Also hes scared of EVERYTHING. Plastic bags, his own food dish which ive changed into different bowels to see if it would help. Hes also chewing stuff up as well. He even jumps when I get up from sitting! We’re both very loving to him too, always cuddling but hes so scared!

    • shibashake says

      When there are large changes in my dog’s behavior, the very first thing that I do is rule out physical issues. Once I am sure that my dog is physically healthy, then I start looking at behavioral triggers.

      Changes in routine and environment are always very stressful for my dog. The bigger the changes and the more long lasting, the more anxious my dog gets. This is because change brings uncertainty, and uncertainty causes stress.

      How was Phantom’s behavior before the kittens but after the move? Does he interact at all with the kittens? What are their interactions like? Does he avoid the kittens? Has he eaten kitty litter or anything else he shouldn’t have? What does Phantom enjoy doing? What activities help him to relax?

      When I moved houses, I helped my dog by creating as much certainty as possible-
      1. I set up a fixed routine right away, that is as similar as possible to his previous routine.
      2. I try *not* to introduce any more changes, which will likely create more stress.
      3. I took my dog out on more relaxing walks on quiet trails. Sephy really likes to explore and enjoys walking, so we went hiking in quiet areas during off hours. This gives him a good outlet for his anxious energy and helped him to relax.
      4. I set up a calm home environment, with a set of consistent rules that my dog is already used to.
      5. I identify the things that trigger his anxiety, and help desensitize him to those triggers. How I do desensitization exercises.

      I talk more about what I do in the article above. However, dog behavior is very context dependent, so what I do to relieve stress will be a bit different based on the temperament, history, and situation for each dog. When in doubt, I get help from a good professional trainer, who can meet and observe my dog in his regular environment.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help

  6. Stephanie says

    Hi,

    I’m wondering if you can lend me any suggestions to help with my dogs anxiety/fear. Mila is a 2.5 year old rescue from Bangkok, Thailand. She was born on the street and her litter passed away after being eaten alive, Mila was the only one left and was rescued by a friend of mine and I later adopted her around 4 months old. She has been with me ever since she was 4 months, she has always been a bit fearful of new people and not the biggest fan of crowds or anything with wheels. Mila’s anxiety doesn’t seem to be reducing at all, and that worries me because I want her to have the best life possible. She has been crate trained, she is very comfortable in the crate. I generally don’t use it often at this point as she is full house trained. She does have a thundershirt, which I have felt has helped a bit, but taking her for walks is still a challenge. She has a halty, but still gets extremely anxious when other people are around, loud noises, etc, she jumps around and pulls frantically at her leash to get away. I live in Toronto, Canada, and living downtown doesn’t lend itself to ever being not hectic. Do you have any suggestions for reducing her social anxiety? I feel I am at a loss, and the vet said I can medicate her, but that’s very costly and I am not sure if I feel comfortable going that route.

    Kind Regards,
    Stephanie & Mila

    • shibashake says

      My youngest Husky, Lara, was also fearful of certain noises when she was young, including the garbage truck, as well as people on bicycles and skateboards. I helped her with those issues through desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises.

      However, desensitization requires that I start small and slowly build up my dog’s tolerance. The more positive successful sessions we have, the more confidence my dog builds, and the more she can tolerate. Similarly, panic attacks or reactive episodes will undermine her confidence and significantly set back our training. Therefore, during the entire rehabilitation process, I have to carefully manage my dog and *not* expose her to more than she can handle.

      I am not sure if this is a possibility in the city, but we drove Lara to quiet parts of the neighborhood or quiet hiking trails, and walked her during off hours, as necessary. The key with desensitization training is not only to maximize positive experiences, but also to minimize reactive events. I.e. start small and only very slowly increase the environmental challenge.

      Getting help from a good, certified, local trainer may also be helpful. Such a trainer would be used to the surrounding environment, and may be able to suggest good ways for doing desensitization in a generally busy environment.
      http://www.cappdt.ca/public/jpage/1/p/ChoosingTrainer/content.do

  7. Shane Vasik says

    I have two little white dogs: one is a Bichon cross Maltese (about 6 years old) and the other is an Australian Terrier (about 2 years old). The older one, Toby, who is natually anxious when it comes to thunderstorms/rain, loud noises in our street, etc. is generally okay when he’s around myself and my wife since our home is a very calm and relaxed environment. We recently got one of those automatic bug spray things and set it to go off every hour, and since it’s been in place for the last few days Toby’s been very odd, more than normal.
    He paces often, sometimes spends hours sitting outside in our backyard (he only ever hangs outside to play with Finn or do his business), and has been constantly shaking like a mobile phone on vibrate mode. He’s not eating his morning meals, barely eats his evening meals and hasn’t got much sleep at all.
    We’ve been giving him lots of hugs and massages, trying to keep him calm, and, since my wife and I are fairly calm people naturally, we hoped that this would work. But so far he hasn’t changed. We have even put the bug spray thing in the kitchen and closed off the living area, but he is still behaving all anxious-like. Is there anything else you can suggest to help? (Please email me.)

    • shibashake says

      If you turn off the bug spray for the few days, does his behavior return to normal? Could he have ingested some of the spray? Does he act stressed when out of walks, or is it only around the house?

  8. Tanya says

    Hello,
    I have 2 dogs (11yrs & 8mnths), they are both pretty good. However my 8mnth old, koolie cross wolf hound (Smudge), seems to suffer from separation anxiety, when I go away. He is fine when I go to work, he sleeps outside, and he is fine if I only take the older dog out. He is not fine if I go away for an extended period.
    Smudge seems to be more hound than koolie, he is a pretty low energy dog. I have always had working dogs in the past & he is very different; learning is different (slower), desire to please is lower and energy levels are lower. Smudge gets about 1 hr exercise a day, I try to break it up – morning & night, but not always. Exercise usually consists of morning run or bicycle & afternoon walk with the older dog down to the park or a trip to the off lead park. He is pretty well trained: sit, stay, heal, down, drop, outside, in the yard, etc.
    I sometimes have to go away for work. When I do I get someone to come once a day to water, feed & exercise. But he still destroys things & starts to dig (in my vege patch). This starts on the first day I go away.
    I don’t always exercise him the morning I leave, but I don’t always exercise him in the morning. When I leave, regardless whether it is to go to work or away for work, I feed the dogs outside, “sit, wait, eat”, one quick pat on the head, I get my gear & I leave. When I get home I give my old dog a pat, as she is calm, but he gets nothing until he calms down.
    I think it is the vehicle that triggers his behaviour. I took it back to work on Monday (I had been home all weekend) & then I came home, he had chewed my bicycle helmet & got so excited I had returned.
    I would like to desensitise him to the vehicle but I can only get it when I need it for work. To hire one it is expensive. Any ideas, he seems to be getting worse & I don’t want to send him to a kennel when I go away.
    Thank you

    • shibashake says

      He is not fine if I go away for an extended period.

      How long is an extended period of time? How frequently does this occur?

      I sometimes have to go away for work. When I do I get someone to come once a day to water, feed & exercise.

      How long does the person stay for? Is it always the same person? Is it someone that the dogs know and trust?

      When trying to help my dog with separation anxiety, consistency in routine is very important. My dogs are all ok with regular absences that are part of their daily routine, however, Sephy (Shiba Inu) will start getting stressed if there are unexpected changes in that routine, e.g. coming home much later from work.

      Dogs with separation anxiety may learn to associate certain per-cues to the event that they are anxious about, e.g. the jingling of keys, appearance of the work-bag, or the sound of our vehicle. In this way, they start to get anxious even before we leave, when those pre-cues start to occur.

      However, to help my dog with his particular separation anxiety, I need to deal with the key sources of anxiety for my dog, which is being alone for an *unknown* period of time. My Shiba, for example, can now handle being alone, as long as it is expected and part of his regular routine.

      If I need to be away unexpectedly, or if there are other changes in routine, I make sure there is someone else, whom he trusts, who can step in and maintain his regular routine. The unpredictability of alone time is the source of his anxiety, so that is the thing that I need to address by returning predictability and consistency back to his schedule.

      If he is already anxious about certain per-cues, then I mix things up a bit, so that the pre-cue is no longer a predictor for the anxiety event. For example, the trusted caretaker make take him out on a walk before I leave, so he does not have to be around and work himself up. However, the key issue and main cause of his anxiety is still the change in routine, and so that is the thing that I focus my attention on.

      Dog behavior is very context dependent so I can only guess at the source of anxiety for Smudge. From what you describe, it seems like the anxiety is coming from the unpredictability of alone time and change in schedule. Is a pet sitter a possibility or perhaps a daycare type situation?

      With a daycare, I make sure the facilities are and staff are good before letting my dog stay. In the beginning, I slowly get my dog comfortable to the new place with shorter stays, then if all goes well, I slowly increase the stay time. In this way, they become familiar with the surroundings and staff, before any unexpected trips.

  9. Stacy says

    Hi. I am running into a problem with my dog’s anxiety that I am not sure how to fix, as it is tying into another problem we are having as well, making it difficult to fix either problem.
    My dog is a female Jack Russell Terrier, Scout. She is about 3 or 4. We’ve had her for about 18 months and she has had this problem all along. We found her on the side of the road, running free in traffic, and the police in our area said they had seen her out running around for 2 days before we brought her in to check for a chip. We did the whole “found dog” routine and no one stepped forward to claim her, so we have taken her in. I have another dog we adopted back in December as well, a rescue from our neighbors who got foreclosed on, and she is a 2 year old lab-chow mix, Taunie.
    Scout is medium to mid-high-level anxious whenever she is outside, for the entire time that she is outside. She will never walk on a slack leash, and will not acknowledge me when we are outside. I have tried stopping and not walking until she lets the leash go slack – she immediately bolts forward and starts tugging again. I have tried carrying treats around with me and trying to reward her when she does something right – she will not even look at me to take the treat. I have tried correcting her with a touch or a tug, and she doesn’t even notice it because she is so fixated on her surroundings. She is always “on” when outside – ears up, tail rigid. She is always looking around, as if trying to see where the next threat is coming from, and if I try to get her to focus on me, she looks around me or jerks her head away and goes back to anxiously “monitoring” the situation. I have gotten to the point where I can get her to sit sometimes, but she still otherwise ignores me, even when sitting. When we pass other dogs, about 50% of the time she will freak out and start bouncing around and barking. Oddly enough, she will also often go after Taunie during these freak-out sessions, even if Taunie is not in her way. She will run over to Taunie, let out a snarl and nip at Taunie’s face, then go back to bouncing and barking and fixating on the other dog. She and Taunie otherwise get along, though sometimes they get a little too rough when playing. If she doesn’t freak out, she just fixates and stares and has to be pulled along until the other dog is out of sight.
    She also does this with motorcycles and any vehicles with a diesel engine (school busses and trucks) but not with SUVs or sedans.
    The problem and tension is that I am also having significant trouble house training her. We have yet to go more than 4 or 5 days without an accident – in the entire 18 months. I take her out every 4 to 5 hours – or even fewer hours between walkings if she doesn’t poop. Sometimes, I will take her outside, where she will not poop, and she will immediately come into the house and poop. Other times, she will poop outside, then come into the house and poop again within a matter of minutes or a couple hours. Other times, she will poop once and not have to poop again for 10 hours. We clean the accident areas thoroughly but she still poops in various places around the house, not always the same spots. She has been to the vet, who has found nothing wrong with her physically.
    I don’t know how to balance her potty training with her outdoor anxiety issues – she needs to poop outside, but I don’t know how to gradually reduce her outside anxiety while giving her enough opportunities to go out. I also feel really defeated that she just poops whenever and wherever she wants, even if she’s just gone. I don’t want to leave her in a crate all day (I work from home, we spend a lot of time together) and then only take her out so she can go outside and potty, but her unpredictable digestive system is just making it impossible to know when I should crate her and when it’s OK for her to be out. I have also tried scheduling feedings. If I only make the food available at certain times of the day, then she simply doesn’t eat for days and won’t go for the food when it’s available. Is there any way to balance the anxiety training with our other needs? Is there any solution to any of this? After 18 months and trying so many different things for both the anxiety and the potty training, I’m feeling utterly defeated.

    • shibashake says

      When I get a new dog, I deal with potty training first. The most important thing about potty training my puppy is supervision. Whenever my puppy is roaming freely in the house, I am right there to supervise. In this way, as soon as I notice any potty signals, I can quickly take my puppy outside and then reward her very very well with her favorite games, food, and affection, for doing the right thing. In this way, she learns that –

      Going inside = Get interrupted,
      Going outside = Get rewarded with fun games, food, and more!

      I need to be consistent about not only maximizing successful trips outside (so that I can keep reinforcing the behavior), but also minimizing mistakes inside the house. Otherwise, if nobody stops my puppy from going inside, she will think it is ok to go inside as well.

      When I cannot supervise, even for just one minute, I put my puppy in a safe enclosure with puppy pads. Therefore, she either goes outside or on puppy pads.

      More on how I potty train my dog.

      As for outside walking, my younger Husky was fearful of certain things such as people on skateboards, garbage trucks, and people on bicycles. Similar principles of training work here as well – I want to help build her confidence by not only maximizing positive and successful outings, but also minimize negative outings where she goes into panic or fear mode.

      One common problem with helping a shy dog occurs when we live in a busy and high stimulus neighborhood. As soon as we leave our house, our dog is bombarded by too much at once, gets overloaded quickly, and goes into reactive/fear mode right away. At this point, she is no longer able to listen or learn. If my dog goes into reactive mode, then the best I can do is remove her from the trigger stimulus as quickly as possible, and take her some place safe and quiet, where she can calm down.

      The key to helping my Husky, Lara, with her fear triggers is to start small and very slowly build up her tolerance. I first do leash training in the house and backyard where she is comfortable and relaxed. I walk her by herself only, because my dogs get more excited and reactive when we go out together. This gets her used to the collar and leash, as well as walking together with me, singly.

      Walking multiple dogs together before they are ready may also lead to barrier frustration and redirected aggression issues, as you describe. I.e. the dog gets highly frustrated because she is prevented from doing what she wants by the leash, and redirects that energy onto a nearby dog, person, or object.
      http://www.scafshelter.org/education/tips-from-the-trainer/1196/tips-from-the-trainer-barrier-frustation

      Once I can walk my dog really well in the house and backyard, I start walking her outside but in very quiet, low stimulus areas to begin with. We drive her to a quiet part of the neighborhood if necessary, or to a nice quiet hiking trail during off hours.

      In the beginning, I also have shorter but more frequent walks. In general, I try to manage our walks so that we maximize positive experiences and minimize fearful outings. The more success we have, the more confidence Lara builds. Similarly, bad outings will undermine that confidence and significantly set back our training. Therefore management of the environment was very important when I was training my Husky.

      At the same time, I also did sound desensitization exercises with Lara, for example with garbage truck noise, coyote howling, and other sounds that trigger anxiety for her. Again, I start small, go slowly, and gradually help her build confidence through successful and positive events.

      ASPCA article on desensitization and counter-conditioning-
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/desensitization-and-counterconditioning

      Desensitization and counter-conditioning is often non-intuitive and has to be carried out in a very structured way. Therefore, it was helpful for me to get guidance from a good professional trainer/behaviorist when I started out with my first dog.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  10. erika dwyer says

    I don’t know how to desensitize our puppy. he is almost 10 months old and chews shoes (will open the closet to get at them) chews our carpets and has also chewed our walls, baseboards and door frames.

    we crate him during the day due to this behavior but he hates his crate and cries as soon as we leave and when we come home the crate is wet I’m assuming from drooling or barking etc.

    if one of us is showering and no one else is home (am before work) the dog will always chew something, but now he associates the shower and him being bad instead of the action and him being bad (we dont want to crate him while in the shower as he will be in the crate all day)

    if someone leaves the house he cries and howls even if someone is home and the other dog is home.

    when we are all together he just chews on toys (he has plenty of toys) or sleeps on the couch with us.

    at night he sleeps on the floor on his bed – no issues.

    we do not know what to do our house and shoes are all being ruined. and I want him to like his crate.

    we have a 5 yr old dog who is calm when we leave, doesn’t chew things and seems normal haha

    the puppys is only 8 lbs it’s not like he needs big long walks to tucker him out as I see people suggesting with huskies and labs etc…

    HELP

  11. Robin says

    I have a 5 year old German Shepherd named Stormy. I got her as a rescue at age 9 months. She was not at all socialized. I spent a great deal of time taking her out in public, going to obedience school, etc. She is no longer fearful when strangers come into the house, though she is cautious.

    There are two behaviors that I would like help addressing. One is that she constantly follows me around the house. I’m home most of the day, and she is not content unless she is in the same room with me. I can crate her, and she doesn’t complain about it, but if out of her crate, she will always be just a few feet from me. I would like her to be confident enough to not need my presence for reassurance.

    The second behavior is sort of hard to describe. She exhibits stress panting at specific times. When I approach her crate to let her out, she will pant and circle. I usually walk away and let her calm down before letting her out. She now knows that she has to stop panting before I open the crate (but she’ll do it again tomorrow). But as soon as she is out, she will begin panting again. I don’t want to reward the nervous panting, so I often put her back in the crate and try again. If I put her back in the crate, she’ll calm down and we’ll start all over again. It often takes a dozen tries to get all the way to the door to let her outside. She will eventually take 5 steps before panting, then 8, then 10, but it is always a long drawn out process. Even if she’s not in the crate, but I go to the door to let her and our other dog out, she’ll start panting. In the garage, she’ll do the same thing before I open that door. Then on the way back into the house, it’s the same thing. If I put a leash on her, she’ll pant in the same way. It’s not a “I’m happy and relaxed” panting, but a “I’m nervous and stressed” panting.

    Even if she has just relieved herself, if I move toward the door or ask if they want to go outside, it’s the same thing.

    I’ve tried periods of just ignoring it. That doesn’t change the pattern at all.

    Any suggestions to help modify her behavior?

    • shibashake says

      How is Stormy with people during walks? How is she when alone in the house? How is she with other people when you are not there?

      One thing that helps with my younger and more fearful Husky is that I try to help her bond and build trust with other people. I get other family members to help feed her, walk her, play with her, groom her, and engage in other bonding activities. In the beginning, I am there to help her feel more comfortable, but I let the other person take the lead. The more people she learns to bond with and trust, the more confidence she gains around people, and the more people she can rely on.

      I also desensitize my dogs slowly to alone time.
      http://shibashake.com/dog/separation-anxiety-dog-why-how-reduce-dog-stress#desensitize

      When trying to help my dog with an anxiety issue, I focus on redirection, making things positive, and building confidence. To reduce my dog’s anxiety symptoms, I need to identify the source of the anxiety, and help to relieve the stress through systematic desensitization and by carefully managing the strength of the stressor. I stay away from anything that will inject more stress into the situation.

      You Can’t Reinforce Fear by Patricia McConnell

      What is your energy when approaching her crate? Is she stressed about going outside? What is her behavior like when she is outside? Is she outside by herself or do you go with her? Does she want to come back in right away? If you go outside with her, is her behavior different? Since she follows you everywhere, does she follow you outside when you go?

      For example, when letting my dog out of his crate, I calmly walk over, open the door, and walk to where I want him to go. Then, I call him to me and reward him really well for coming with a fun game, affection, and more. In this way, it is a fun experience that is not such a big deal. I want to create successful positive experiences, so that he will become more confident.

      I do recall games with my dog in the backyard, Find-It games and more, so he associates the outside with fun and positive experiences. Sometimes, we go outside and I sit on the bench to read, or we do hand-feeding exercises, or he just does his own thing. I do more of this during puppyhood, so that my new dog will learn to enjoy the backyard, learn to relax, and learn to do her own thing.

      Finally, my dog is very sensitive to my energy and to the energy of the people around him. If I am stressed or frustrated, he will pick up on my energy, get stressed himself, and his anxiety will worsen. I always try to control my own energy, when I am training or interacting with my dog. If I am too stressed out, I take some time to myself first, to regain my balance.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and each situation is different. When in doubt, I get help from a good, positive-based professional trainer.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help

  12. Debbie says

    Hello! Our Yorkie is now 5 years old. He’s always had anxiety about traveling, but usually not at any other time. Starting about 2 weeks ago, he is having HUGE anxiety issues when my husband leaves for work. I stay at home most of the time, and our routine has not changed at all. Since my husband left for work this morning, he has cried like a child. He is also urinating on the furniture more. He also continues to cry after my husband is home for a bit. Any helpful suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • shibashake says

      Hmmm, what is his daily routine like? Has he always urinated on furniture or did this only start recently? What do you do when he cries? Is he eating and drinking normally? Is his pee and poop normal? Is he urinating more frequently? Does he urinate while lying down? Are there any other changes in behavior?

      What type of training is he used to? How does he act towards other people and dogs during walks?

      When there are large and sudden changes in behavior in my dog, I rule out physical issues first. Once I am sure that the change is *not* caused by something physical, then I start to look at behavioral triggers. After I identify the triggers, then I can redirect and do desensitization/counter-conditioning exercises.

  13. Donna says

    Hi I have a 4 year old flat coat rescue. We have had him for 3 years. We moved 6 months ago from country side in the uk to downtown boston. Over the last 6 month Benny has become frightened of motorbikes, men approaching in the dark or day light, he has become possessive of toys, has shown some mild aggression to other dogs and it is horrible to watch my happy little dog become so aggressive, anxious and scared! Any ideas please???

    • shibashake says

      Is he anxious all of the time or is it only when he is outside? How is his behavior when he is in the house? Is it noisy inside the house? How is he while travelling in a car? What was his behavior like right after the move? Has it gotten worse? Is he currently on a fixed routine and schedule?

      With my dogs, I set up a fixed routine, consistent rules, and a calm environment at home. This helps to create certainty, which in turn helps to reduce stress. I talk more about this in the article above.

      I also do desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises with my dogs, to help them build confidence and become less anxious. More on how I did noise desensitization exercises with my dog.

      However, with desensitization, it was important to maximize positive and successful instances, while at the same time preventing negative events and more anxiety attacks. Therefore, management of the environment is very important so that I do not expose my dog to situations/stimuli that he is not ready to handle.

      Given that your situation is such a big change in environment, and likely a challenge in terms of stimulus management, I would get help from a good professional trainer.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  14. Stacey says

    I have a new rescue. 1yr old poodle terrier mix. She is super loving and playful, sits when I pull out the leash for a walk. Doesn’t potty in the house. I had her in isolation, per orders, to make sure she didn’t have kennel cough. But every time I take her out for a walk and she spots a dog all is over! She is squirming, yelping, whining and jumping all over. Most of the time if I spot another dog I will walk the other direction. If she starts to get squirmy I well kneel down beside her and stroke her neck and back til she calms down and the dog is out of view. Recently she went completely berserk for a small dog and tore away from my arms. Only scrapes and bruises but I want to teach her to remain calm. I know there is a long process with a rescue and I’m not sure of her background. Any quick fixes? I’ve only had her a week and a half. So far everything is great, she even behaves while I’m at work.

  15. Donna Edwards says

    Hi I have an 11 year old bitch , who is great during the day , but come bedtime she pants and paces throughout the house . She does actually sleep better in the living room , but not on her own so now we’re taking it in turns to watch over her , any ideas please ? Thank you x

    • shibashake says

      Hmmm, when did this behavior start? Does she respond to her name or favorite rewards while pacing? Are there other changes in behavior? How is her physical health? When was her last vet visit?

      Sleep irregularities and anxious pacing *may* be signs of senior dementia (Canine Cognitive Dysfunction). It can also be due to pain or other physical factors. I would consult with a vet first, to determine if the behavior is due to some physical issue.
      http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/11_12/features/Caring-For-An-Older-Dog_16086-1.html
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/behavior-problems-older-dogs

    • Amy Bates says

      My 5.5 year old rescue Greyhound has started this exact same behavior. At all other times during the day she is happy, playful, relaxed. But when bedtime comes she does not want to go out for a last potty break, and she cannot decide where to sleep. She doesn’t want to be in our room, or in her playroom downstairs, or in the living-dining rooms/kitchen where the two cats sleep. Nervous, shaking, panting, pacing. She has just spent the whole evening with us watching tv in the living room – it’s just going to bed that she can’t abide. This behavior is recent – within the last couple months.

  16. Christopher says

    So I have a black lab/blue nose pit mix, he is absolutely wonderful when it’s just me at the house, but he has major anxiety/hyperactivity problems when I have company over. He starts licking/chewing on my walls to the point he foams at the mouth, runs around constantly, if crated he won’t stop barking/crying, or he will start playing with my English setter mix, but so rough I have to break them up. He also seems to suffer from separation anxiety. If I so much as go get the mail he starts barking, tearing up/breaking my blinds to see out the window, and I can’t even leave him in my backyard to vacuum even without him digging a new hole under my fence. He’s approaching the 20 month mark and I’ve had him since he was 5 weeks old. He follows me everywhere, sleeps with his head on the pillow next to mine touching me with at least one paw or he’ll reposition so that he can have some contact with my body. I need help with both problems as I can’t leave him alone without always crating him (never have had to crate any previous dogs I’ve owned) and I can’t have company over without my house being destroyed or everyone being miserable if I crate him because of the barking. repair costs for his anxieties are almost $200 a month and I can barely afford to feed myself but the house cannot stay in disrepair, and I refuse to get rid of him as he is literally my baby and the only reason I have motivation to do anything

    Please help, thank you

    • shibashake says

      What is his daily routine like? How does he respond to people during daily walks? What was his behavior and experiences as a puppy? How did he respond to people when he was young?

      In terms of anxiety, what has helped my Shiba Inu, Sephy, is to –
      1. Set him up for success,
      2. Properly manage his environment and routine so that he doesn’t have any more panic attacks, and
      3. Slowly socialize him to people in a positive and structured way.

      The more successful “people” experiences Sephy has, the more confidence he builds, and the more calm he becomes. The more panic attacks that Sephy has, the more it undermines his confidence, and the worse his behavior becomes. Therefore, it was very important with Sephy to not only maximize positive and calm experiences, but also to minimize anxiety attacks and reactive behavior.

      Very informative ASPCA article on separation anxiety.

      During desensitization to any type of fear, it is essential to ensure that your dog never experiences the full-blown version of whatever provokes his anxiety or fear. He must experience only a low-intensity version that doesn’t frighten him. Otherwise, he won’t learn to feel calm and comfortable in situations that upset him. This means that during treatment for separation anxiety, your dog cannot be left alone except during your desensitization sessions.
      ~~[ASPCA]

      More on how I desensitize my dog to people.
      More on how I desensitize my dog to alone time.

      Note that dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and each situation is different. During Sephy’s difficult period, we visited with several professional trainers who could observe Sephy within his normal environment and routine. They helped me better understand Sephy’s body language and behavior, and helped guide me in the retraining process.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help

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