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.

Below are some common ways on how to deal with dog anxiety.

1. Desensitization Exercises

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.

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.

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.

a) 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.

b) Dog Calming Music

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

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!]

c) 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.

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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  1. Stacey says

    I appreciate your blog here. Lots of good information. I have a unique situation. I work in a doggy daycare and recently started bringing my big Labrador to work with me. All is fine for the first hour or so, until he sees or hears me coming into the dog play space bringing other dogs in or out, and he can’t get to me. He begins to bark incessantly and it doesn’t stop for hours. He becomes the highest maintenance dog of the group, rilling up the other dogs, and causing issues with my fellow co workers. They’ve tried everything- moving him in to another area of the facility, stuffed frozen kong (which he doesn’t even acknowledge), gentle speaking and vocally rewarding his calm behavior. But the second he hears me talking or he sees me, it starts all over again. I’ve tried ignoring him completely and that’s backfired. Not sure if it would help to take him out of the fenced area for a short walk outdoors on my 3 daily breaks to give him some contact time or if that’s just a bad idea. He’s not bonding with anyone at the facility yet and the staff changes depending on what day it is so consistency is a problem. Not sure what else I can do to make him realize I’m not leaving him behind. I have to make this work for the sake of keeping the job and keeping him well adjusted. I adore him so much and only want the best for him. One of the reasons I took the job was the benefit of putting him in no cost daycare everyday. He’s a sensitive soul in a big (120lb) body and he loves his people dearly. I practice pack leadership and he always listens well except this. He’s an adjusted dog and gets along well with just about every dog, so temperment with others isn’t an issue. Side note–he had a moderate case of separation anxiety when I first adopted him 7 years ago but has since overcome that in our home environment through training and desensitizing. Any advice you can offer is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      Dogs who are attached to their people can become anxious when their people are around, but they cannot get to them. This can also lead to barrier frustration.

      There is this handsome Weimaraner that we frequently meet while hiking in our local trails. He is great because he sticks close by his owner, without even being called. Such dogs are wonderful because they can go almost anywhere with their person and not get into any trouble. When the dog gets stressed, his first move is always to run back to his person. However, when put in a new, uncertain situation, without his person there, he will get extremely stressed. In such a situation, he doesn’t know what to do, and the person he trusts is not around to supervise him and calm him down.

      Dog daycare can be a very stressful place for some dogs. My Shiba Inu, for example, did not do well at daycare. He is the type of dog who really needs routine, structure, and certainty. The dog daycare is full of new dogs, new people, and is very high stimulus. Poor Sephy would either get really reactive during play-time, or very stressed at other times because everything is new, different, there is a lot of noise, and lots of activity that he cannot get to. Dogs with a more gentle disposition can also get highly anxious is such an environment.

      If I wanted to get Sephy more comfortable with daycare, I would have to slowly desensitize him to the environment, and slowly get him to learn to trust the people there. However, as you say, the people there are always changing and so is the environment. Not all dogs do well in a dog daycare type situation, and Sephy definitely belongs to this group.

      My dogs actually do best at home. I am at home most of the time, but they are totally fine being alone for several hours. The environment is quiet, structured, and they know exactly what to expect. Certainty always helps to reduce stress and anxiety.

      I adore him so much and only want the best for him. One of the reasons I took the job was the benefit of putting him in no cost daycare everyday. He’s a sensitive soul in a big (120lb) body and he loves his people dearly.

      Has your dog been to daycare before this? When did you start working at the daycare? How was your dog’s routine like before the daycare job? Does he like playing and being with other dogs? Is he more people focused or dog focused? How is he with new things, new people, and new environments? Or does he prefer a quiet, familiar, and calm environment? What were his socialization experiences? How is he when alone at home?

      Is it possible to work from home? Are there other people that he trusts who can care for him when you are not around? I try to get at least one or two other people involved in caring for my dog, and earning his trust. In this way, if I am sick or need to travel, there is someone else who can take over, without introducing too much stress.

  2. says

    Great post and I really like your site. Can’t wait to explore it more.

    I ran across your site because my 8 year old Golden Retriever, Logan has started to become stressed by possible anxiety issues.

    There were several major events that happen over the past couple of years which might have lead up to this behavior. Logan lost his eye to glaucoma last July. He seemed to adjust well. We moved from California to Florida the end of 2014. Both my dogs made the trip fine, seemed to adjust for the most part. Allergies is another topic all together though. About a month ago Logan had yet again another surgery. He had a couple of cysts removed. I was really surprised, but that surgery was a little more taxing on him compared to the eye surgery.

    He’s never had any trouble other than long car rides longer than three hours or so. My vet suggested Rescue Remedy as a possible solution when I couldn’t solve the problem. It never was a huge problem, as we only took drives over 3+ hours 4 to 5 times a year. I’ve used Rescue Remedy occasionally over the years and it seemed to help, not sure, maybe it just made me feel better. Last time I tried this was when we drove the 2600 miles from California to Florida.

    Recently, over the past couple of weeks (after living her nearly a year without any issues), I’ve seen him become more anxious when arriving home from work or running errands. I arrive home and he’s over zealous to see me. Kind of whining, panting, that kind of thing. He’s always been happy to see me, but this is a little bothersome. Because of thunderstorms (not many of those in California) I started leaving music on. Thought it might help, but maybe I need to try classical. When I’m home, he has no issues with thunderstorms, etc. I do my best at remaining calm and generating good vibes if you will. He eventually calms down after 15 minutes or so. He’s also not destructive in anyway. Never has been.

    I plan on looking into calming music maybe a little aromatherapy, but if nothing else, we’ll ask our vet.

    Just want to say that I enjoyed reading your post and look forward to reading more.

    Best regards,


  3. Serina says

    I have an 8 month old Siberian husky, we have had her since 2 1/2 months old. She has been crate trained since day one with no problems, but for the last week or so she has began crying, howling all night into the early morning hours. We thought it was just a bad night for her but she continues to do this. Nothing has changed as far as routine, could it be time to fix her? Not sure if this is the issue as this behavior came out of no where. She is only put in the crate at night when we go to bed, please help ……sleepless in Antelope

    • Leah says

      This is the exact same reason I am here. We have a labradoodle puppy 8 mos. who has been crated at night since we brought her home with no issues. All of the sudden, she started crying at night….all night long. When we go away and leave her in her crate, she scratches and digs to the point that she has ripped off one of her nails. It has come out of nowhere and I hope this is just a phase that will pass?

    • shibashake says

      Is her crate in your bedroom or somewhere else? Does she stop as soon as she sees you? If she hears you, does she stop? Is she with you all the time during the day? Does she show this behavior during the day when you are not around?

      Sometimes, there could be unusual noises at night that may scare/spook my dog, thereby causing her to develop some amount of separation anxiety. I usually keep my puppy with me in the bedroom, in her crate. In this way, she can see me, and is less likely to get anxious. After she matures and has gained a bunch of confidence, I let her decide whether she prefers to be with me in the bedroom, or with my other dogs downstairs.

      This ASPCA article has more on separation anxiety-

      With my dog, I slowly get her used to alone time. I start with very short sessions (seconds) and slowly build up from there. The more calm and successful alone experiences that she has, the more confidence she builds, and the more relaxed she becomes by herself. Similarly, panic attacks and negative experiences will undermine her confidence, significantly set back training, and worsen her anxiety symptoms.

      Therefore, I need to manage my dog carefully and set her up for success. If I need to be away for more time than she is able to handle (at the moment), I get someone that she trusts to be with her.

      Both my Huskies were spayed pretty early on, so my experiences are only with spayed dogs.

  4. Vicky says

    My dog is Molly and is a 5-year-old Maltese Teacup. We got her from someone who got her from a friend and had no idea how to look after a dog like her. When we got her, her whole coat was matted, she had about a million fleas and some of her teeth were rotten and had to be removed a week after we got her. She was very reserved for the first few days but since then has become a friendly and energetic dog (and a wee bit spoiled!). Since we got her we noticed she would run around in circles. Not big circles, just a little wee ones practically on the spot. She does this when you first come into the house, when she wants the food or water bowl filled, when she gets a treat, or when she wants permission to come onto the couch. One website said that this might be cause by stress. Should I be worried? I give her plenty of attention, and someone is home all day as my Dad works from home. Is this just a habit?

    • Anonymous says

      I’ve seen that in dogs that are in cages a lot. Usually rescues. They spin around when stimulated because that’s all they were able to do.

    • shibashake says

      How long does she do this for? Does she listen when you ask her to do something else? How much time each day does she spend running around in circles? Does this behavior interfere with his daily life?

      Based on what you describe, it sounds like it could be from excitement. However, dog behavior is very context dependent, and there are several different things that may cause this type of behavior. This article has a list of reasons why a dog may run around in circles-

      The word “compulsive” describes the repetitive, irresistible urge to perform a behavior. A dog who displays compulsive behavior repeatedly performs one or more behaviors over and over, to the extent that it interferes with his normal life.

  5. Lindsay says

    I recently adopted a rescue who is about 3 years old. He is a mutt, but looks to be some rat terrier and maybe some boarder collie.
    His foster mom was crating him during the day and said she had no problems.
    When I put him in his crate to leave for work, he SCREAMS and starts shaking. He goes in a little timidly and about 20 seconds later, starts howling. When I come home, he has ripped the blanket from off the top, and has dug up the bed inside. I have left a recorder today to see how long he screams for but he is just so unhappy in there. He is a clingy pup which has subsided as time goes on, but still so un relaxed in his crate.
    Any advise would be so much appreciated.

    • shibashake says

      Was he alone at home in the foster mom’s place?

      What you describe sounds like separation anxiety. I help my dog with separation anxiety by doing desensitization exercises. I start with very very short periods of alone time and *very slowly* build up his confidence and tolerance.

      The more successful events there are, the more confidence my dog builds, and the more comfortable he is by himself. Similarly, bad experiences or panic attacks will undermine that confidence, significantly set back retraining, and worsen his anxiety symptoms.

      Therefore, I make sure never to expose my dog to more alone time than he can handle. If I need to be away, I get someone that he trusts to be with him.
      This article from the ASPCA has more on separation anxiety and desensitization exercises.
      More on how I help my dog with separation anxiety.

  6. luis ortiz says

    Hi i have a big problem my wife and I have 2 small breeds dogs the first one his name is Chiqui he’s a mix of chihuahua and Yorke the sweetest dog any one can meet bit our second dog Pulgui she is a mix of maltices and habanes I guess they call it maltaness well my issue is totally with her with us she hides under the bed doesn’t want to come out she only does so if we say treat or let’s go which means time for a walk and when we both on the bed. Where’s our biggest problem when she first came to us she was always frighten as if her last owner use to hit her or mistreat her so at first happy energetic going up the stairs and happy all well the second day she didn’t want to go up the stairs no down hiding crying we got her when she was 4 months old she’s now 1 year old but she has a habit when we are not at home to rip the rug apart eat the walls furniture and my wife’s shoes my wife has had enough I understand her I have tried everything but my other dog chiqui is also I need help she doesn’t listen we give her all the attention training longer walks and nothing the other day I was home off of work and went to do the dishes and I heard scratches coming from the room she saw me stooped ran under the bed and she had ripped the rug in a way that I was furious I grande her from under the bed and put her in her cage I hate to do that cause chiqui knows where to pee and poop so he roams the house freely but it’s like if she has to be I’m her cage 24 hours trust me no we don’t do it but it’s like we’re looking at it with no other choice please help us cause I don’t want to get to that point

    • shibashake says

      at first happy energetic going up the stairs and happy all well the second day she didn’t want to go up the stairs

      Did anything happen with the stairs on the first day? Did she accidentally fall? Was she supervised the entire time? What is her daily routine like? What type of training is she used to?

      With my more fearful Husky, I focus my energy on building her confidence and trust. To do this, I need to manage her environment so that I can set her up for success. The more positive and successful experiences that she has, the more confidence and trust she builds, and the better her behavior becomes. Similarly, negative experiences and punishment will undermine her confidence, destroy her trust, significantly set back retraining, and worsen her fear symptoms.

      she has a habit when we are not at home to rip the rug apart eat the walls furniture and my wife’s shoes

      Dogs with separation anxiety may become destructive when home alone. This is a symptom of the dog’s anxiety. Similar to how some people may chew their nails when anxious, some dogs may chew at the carpet or walls. I help my dog with separation anxiety by doing desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises. I start with very very short periods of alone time (seconds), and pair it with very high priority rewards. Then, I very slowly build up my dog’s confidence and tolerance level, from that starting point of success.

      Do not scold or punish your dog. Anxious behaviors are not the result of disobedience or spite. They are distress responses! Your dog displays anxious behaviors when left alone because he’s upset and trying to cope with a great deal of stress. If you punish him, he may become even more upset and the problem could get much worse.

      The ASPCA article above has more on how to desensitize a dog to alone time. Here are two more ASPCA articles on fear behaviors and how to retrain it-

      I help my fearful dog by –
      1. Setting up a fixed schedule and routine for her,
      2. Giving her structured but relaxing outlets for her energy, and
      3. Doing desensitization exercises to help her build confidence and trust.

      Desensitization exercises also give her new tools to deal with her stress, as well as help her re-associate a previously scary stimulus with something calm and positive. A fixed routine is also important as that helps to create certainty, and certainty helps to reduce stress and anxiety.

      Most important of all, I manage my dog’s environment very carefully so that she is *not* exposed to situations that she is not ready for. I keep her with me most of the time, supervise her, we do positive training exercises, we do desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises, and I always try to set her up for success. Locking her away, punishment, panic attacks, and negative events will only worsen her anxious behaviors.

      When in doubt, I get help from a good, positive-based, professional trainer-

  7. Janelle says

    Hello. I am down to my last resort. I have a dauchand she is 8 years old and has very bad separation anxiety. She is a very good dog on a normal basis, potty trained and very very cuddley. However, anytime we are home she has to go into her crate. and everytime she pees (sometimes poops) in her cage. We have tried all sizes of cages. She hates when things are in her cage. If you put food or treats or toys in she throws them out or leaves them sitting there until she is out of her cage (so Kong or anything of the sort wont help) I have to give her a bath (because she will lay in it) everyday and clean her cage and wash she blankets everyday. I have no idea what to do, it is getting to be too much. Any advice?

    • shibashake says

      With my dog, I got him used to being alone by doing desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises. I start with very very short periods of alone time, e.g. seconds, and very slowly build up his confidence, trust, and tolerance. The more positive and successful alone experiences that he has, the more confidence he builds, and the more comfortable he becomes. Similarly, negative events and panic attacks will undermine that confidence, significantly set back retraining, and worsen his stress symptoms.

      Therefore, I make sure to set my dog up for success and not expose him to more alone time than he can handle. If I need to leave him alone for more than he is ready for, I get someone he trusts to stay with him.

      This ASPCA article has more on desensitization training for separation anxiety.
      More on how I deal with separation anxiety.

  8. sophie says

    hey. i am wondering could you help me Design two games that could be played with a dog to help relieve stress and anxiety.?

    thanks a million


    • shibashake says

      Dog behavior is very context dependent. Therefore, the temperament of the dogs, past experiences, environment, routine, and more will all play a role. The exercises that I do with my dogs are based on their temperament, what they are anxious about, and what things motivate them most.

  9. Crissy says

    I have a black shiba inu and he is about 8. He loves being outside and could honestly be outside all day and night. But then when it comes inside sometimes he just shakes. When my parents go away he just shakes and sometimes won’t wven come inside. We feel so bad and really do not know what to do. He spends most of his time either outside or shaking in the bathroom. If anyone has any suggestions please let me know! Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      How long have you had him? Has he always shown this behavior? It sounds like there is something in the house that he is afraid of. Did anything happen to him in the past inside the house that spooked him? What kind of training is he used to? Does everyone in the house use the same training? Are there other people in the house besides you and your parents? What is his daily routine like?

  10. JJ Wiedeman says

    HELP I adopted an 11 week old white German Shepard in March 2015. She has no concept of knowing not to bite nor being gentle with her teeth. I tried and tried all of the ASPCA recommendations and I have been consistent. She just keeps getting more aggressive. I pull away or walk away and she dives at me to bite me. I know she chews on everything out of boredom. Unfortunately just weeks after getting her I was diagnosed with a few serious health issues. If I had known I would never have gotten her. I know I can’t give her the exercise she needs. I try to compensate with play. I will not give up on her. I just need advice. I have a 1 year old grand baby that lives with me and I fear Zoey (my dog) will hurt him.

  11. Judy says

    I hope you can help me. We are planning a trip to Fl in a few months and would love to take our 8yr old yorkie but he shakes and pants when he is in the car. He loves to go bye bye but does this everytime. We try to take him for car rides when we go through drive thru’s or even around the block. What can I do so he can go with us.

  12. Angela says

    Hi! Thank you for your advice. I am fostering a 3-4 year old German Shepherd who is recovering from Demodex mange. They say stress can be a contributing factor to Demodex. Her fur is growing back in nicely as she is in a much less stressful enviroment here as opposed to the confined space for the 2 months she spent in the shelter. I believe she is trainable to some extent although she paces the back patio for lengths of time chasing what would seem like a fly or shadow. She is coherent to me and knows how to “sit” when I tell her and I’ve taught her to wait for me to put her food bowl down before she starts eating. She devours her food so fast that she ends up vomiting it up at times. I’m wondering if she is just suffering from being mistreated in the past or if something is wrong with her mentally. Do I go about training her or helping her in any other way. Is it possible for a dog to have ADD? She is very sweet, but needs to be busy for lengths of time. She chews all her toys down to nothing … I just want to give her what she needs but I’m a bit puzzled. We are fostering her along side my senior dog who just seems to be amused by her and watches her while lying down. Sorry for all the questions. Just trying to figure out if she is truly “nervous” or just super high energy that needs to learn a bit of obedience? Thank you! – Angela

    • shibashake says

      I’m wondering if she is just suffering from being mistreated in the past or if something is wrong with her mentally.

      For something like this, I would consult with her vet first to see if the problem is physical. The pacing and chewing does sound like it could be anxiety symptoms, but with my dog, I always rule out physical issues first.

      As for eating, I make sure my dogs do not eat too fast because it can cause health issues, including bloat, especially for large dogs. My dogs work for all of their food, so they mostly get hand-fed from me for doing various tasks and for following house rules. Whatever is left over I put in safe interactive food toys for them to work on, e.g. a kibble ball.

      Some people use special bowls or sheets, etc., but I have always followed the NILIF program with my dogs, and that has worked well for me. Working for their food keeps them engaged in a positive activity, teaches them that good stuff comes from people, and also that following rules and commands gets them what they want most.

      Is it possible for a dog to have ADD?

      Yes, based on what I have read, dogs can have ADHD although it is commonly over-diagnosed.

      Based on what you describe, I would consult with a vet first to rule out physical issues. Then, I would visit with a very good behaviorist to identify the source of her stress behaviors, and develop a good plan for rehabilitation.

      She sounds like she has had a difficult life, and I am glad that she is in a better place now with good people to care for her.

  13. Alex says

    Hello. Our family has recently adopted an 8mo old Shiba Inu, it would be nearly a month now since we got her. She has been to the vet already and has a clean bill of health. However, she seems to have some deep-seated fears that we are having trouble tackling. And one other thing- other than some perks, she acts almost nothing like a “Typical” Shiba, making the whole situation even tougher and stranger.

    We thought these fears may have been caused by the rehoming, but as more and more time passes she has barely made any progress despite our gentle attempts at desensitizing and positive reinforcement. We are a bit worried her anxiety may be beyond what we can handle, as it actually seems to hinder her daily life.

    -She is terrified of certain parts of the home, some of which are kind of essential to proper living. These would be the kitchen/dining room area and the stairs. She absolutely refuses to set foot on stairs, though she will peer up and down them repeatedly as if she wants to. The only stairs she will go up are the ones to the middle floor -> upper floor as she is most comfortable in the upper floor rooms. Once she’s up there, though, she won’t come back down on her own. We have to carry her down to bring her outside or to feed her again (we don’t want her to get used to us bringing the food bowls to her.)
    -In the kitchen, she will eat as fast as possible and quickly run back upstairs or to the nearby living room’s couch. We’ve managed to get her to stay in there a little longer than usual by giving extra food out of our hands, or scattering some on the ground. As soon as something makes an odd noise, though, she’ll ignore any leftover food and bolt again.

    -Almost any noise seems to scare her. A sudden voice, doors opening and closing, refrigerator humming, even birds and other wildlife outside. She loves to play in our fenced backyard and seems to come out of her shell while she’s out there, but if there are too many wildlife noises or, god forbid, the dog next door barking, she’ll stop playing and run and hide in a corner of the yard.

    -She is extremely docile. For example, when brought to the vet for vaccinations and tests, she did not make a single peep or struggle even when being poked with needles. I have never seen her act truly aggressive at all(which is partly a good thing I guess?) even when terrified out of her wits.

    Other than the fears, there is not all bad to her. She is a very smart girl and learns commands VERY quickly. Even when frightened and preparing to bolt, she will still listen to them for a short time.
    We have a cat that she gets along with and always tries to play with, and she is surprisingly gentle with her as well. Sometimes the cat ignores her, sometimes it plays back. She also likes to play with us when she feels like it.

    We are considering consulting a behaviorist, but wanted to get some opinions online as well. We also plan on taking her to obedience classes somewhere down the line, either before or after the behaviorist consultation, and are also wondering if we should get a second, more confident dog since she seems to get along with the cat so well(and we feel bad when the cat rejects her!)

    I could type up some other smaller problems but it would end up in a terribly long post(it already kinda is, sorry!) so here are just the main problems for now. If you could provide some insight or tips it would be greatly appreciated. I am rather concerned about this girl as I have no idea how she was treated at her last home. Even though she is 8 months old she seems to have had zero prior training in any regard. I can always provide more info if needed as well. Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      What type of desensitization exercises have you tried? What was her response? Is she crate trained? How is her behavior like when inside a crate or safe enclosure?

      To help my dog with anxiety issues, I always start small, set my dog up for success, and go at a pace that my dog is comfortable with. The more successful and positive experiences that my dog has, the more confidence he builds, and the better his behavior becomes. Similarly, negative experiences where my dog gets spooked or goes into panic mode, will undermine that confidence, significantly set back training, and worsen his anxiety symptoms. Therefore, it is also very important that I minimize anxiety or panic episodes.

      This is where management becomes extremely important. I want to keep my dog in a very low stimulus, very quiet, very safe area, most of the time, so that he does not get exposed to situations that he is not ready for. The only time I expose him to the “scary stimulus” is when I do desensitization training in a very structured environment, where I can control the strength of the anxiety stimulus.

      More on how I do noise desensitization training.

      Desensitization training can be pretty counter-intuitive, so I think consulting with a good behaviorist is a very good idea. That was what we did with Sephy in the beginning.

      With Sephy, I focused on solving most of his behavioral issues first, before getting a second dog. If we need to train him with other dogs, we did so at our local SPCA, in a structured environment, with trainer chosen dogs, and under the direction of a trainer.

      With an anxious/fearful dog, a regular routine, consistency, and safe environment, become very important. I want to keep things consistent with a fixed routine and a safe, low-stimulus space. This creates certainty, so that my dog can relax and slowly gain confidence in a structured way. Large changes, such as another dog is going to create a lot of uncertainty and disruptions, which can in turn lead to greater stress and anxiety.

      For anxiety issues, I would do private lessons with a good, positive-based, trainer/behaviorist who understands the principles behind systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning.

    • Alex says

      Thanks for the response! Since I last posted she has actually gone down a couple steps by herself, though she still won’t go down the entire stairway nor will she step foot on the actual middle floor(which is where the kitchen is). I’ve been using this newfound courage to put treats on each step to lure her down, and occasionally feed her on the stairwell also, in hopes that one day I can slowly move it towards the kitchen without her getting scared.

      We’ll carry her into the kitchen to eat as well, when it’s quiet(refrigerator isn’t humming/no one’s cooking) and we’ll drop extra food on the ground. She usually goes a certain distance via this method, but even when it’s quiet she’ll sometimes still get spooked by something and leave at her first chance.

      When she notices barking outside while she’s indoors, I’ll give her some kibbles then too. This one I find also seems to have worked a tiny bit as she no longer runs and hides in a corner immediately(though she will still run back inside after a moment)

      She is not crate trained but we are planning on starting in the coming days/week. She has an enclosure in one of our rooms that she is usually relaxed and mellow, but despite daytime exercise she almost always becomes restless in the middle of the night, around 3am, and tries to play.

  14. Nita says


    I do apologize if you have responded to this type of comment before but I’ll make it short! I have 1.5 yr old chihuahua rat terrier mix with anxiety issues that worsen when I am around. He seems to get anxious around other people and dogs, especially children, and begins barking and snarling. I can’t seem to get his attention or calm him down. I took him to obedience class and the trainer’s only solutions were squirts of water or puppy Prozac, and I learned nothing of the methods you wrote about. When I take him for walks I have to avoid children, people, and dogs because he just barks and barks. How do I desentitize him to these if I can’t really control the environment very well? I appreciate your help!!

    Thank you

    • shibashake says

      My dog is very sensitive to my energy. If I am worried, stressed, fearful, or frustrated, my dog will quickly pick up on my unbalanced energy and get even more anxious and crazy. Therefore, one of the most important things in helping my reactive dog is to control my own energy. I need to stay calm and in-control. If anything comes up, I need to have a plan and be decisive.

      As for controlling my dog’s environment, here are some things that I do –
      1. I walk my dog during off-hours if necessary.
      2. I drive my dog to quiet and low stimulus areas if necessary.
      3. I do desensitization training in a structured and controlled environment, e.g. in my fully enclosed backyard with trainer selected dogs, or in a training facility with trainer selected dogs.
      4. I try my best to always set my dog up for success, so in the beginning we may do shorter but more frequent walks, in a very safe and low stimulus environment.
      5. I start small, go in small steps, and slowly help build up my dog’s confidence. The more successes my dog has, the more confidence he gains and the better his behavior becomes. Similarly, negative/reactive experiences will undermine that confidence, significantly set back training, and cause my dog’s anxiety and behavior to worsen.

      Therefore, I need to manage my dog’s environment and *not* expose him to situations that he is not ready for.

      More on how I desensitize my dog to people.
      More on how I desensitize my dog to other dogs.

      Finally, finding a good trainer can be challenging. The dog training field is not well regulated, so we went through some not very good trainers with Sephy, before finding some good ones. I also read up a lot on dog behavior and dog training, which helped me to better understand Sephy and also filter out the inappropriate trainers. Here are some articles that describe what to look for in a professional trainer-
      How I went about looking for a good trainer.
      Where I get dog behavior and dog training information.

  15. TJ Weinheimer says

    In Feb. of this year I rescued a lovely pit/coon hound mix named Cal. It is very clear that Cal was abused and that he has issues that need attention. I have been working with him steadily on his fears and to get him comfortable with me. Cal started to greet me when I came home, started to talk, and was finally finding his voice to bark. On March 13th of this year the people hired to fix my cooler went on to my property without me being home; to make a long story short they scared the poor boy almost to death and he bolted. Everything that had been done was of course undone. Also he has been having huge anxiety issues that he didn’t have before. Since this has happened I have not been able to keep Cal home; he bolts over the fence (6 foot) when he gets spooked, which happens at really random times. The issue I am having is I can’t figure out what is triggering these episodes. Sometime it seems to be the house settling or the TV popping when it cools down. Sometimes I can’t figure out the trigger at all. I know that he is scared to death; he just shakes and whines. Sometimes it happens during the day and sometimes at night. I do walk him and his sister everyday so he is getting plenty of exercise. He is not afraid around other dogs or people, ever. I control his environment, he doesn’t seem to mind me leaving the house and he loves his new sister. When he has these episodes I hold him and speak softly. I know what I am doing to calm him and help him adjust. I just can’t help him if I can’t figure out what is causing the episodes.
    I am a very firm believer in herbal remedies; my female is on a herb supplement for her hormone imbalance. I don’t think smell therapy will work. I am looking for a remedy that can be issued like every 12 hours to help him stay in a calm frame of mind without making him dopey.
    I see lots of herbals on line for this issue; the problem is that I don’t have an hour before the event… as I have no idea what the event is 99.9% of the time. The vets I have spoken to are pushing for a tranquilizer and I don’t want to go that route unless as a last resort.

  16. Amber M says

    Ok so I have been helping to rescue and foster pit bulls for awhile now. I came across the 2 year old blue nose male pit bull at the shelter. He was suppose to be euthanized Sunday morning and I was able to adopt him and save him. He’s been a great dog and very loving but he is an absolute escape artist. The first night we had him, my bf and I left quick to go get food and we put him in the garage. Came home and he was standing in our front yard at the front door. He bust through the window in the garage and chewed the metal door knob. We then put him on a steel cord out back and hooked him to a harness which he chewed through and got off. Also put him in a crate and he busted out of it. I am now looking to buy a large dog run kennel to keep him in on our concrete patio out back when we are gone. I’m not quite sure what else to do because I have never had a dog like this before. But I’ve also had both my pits as puppies and did extensive training with them. I’m not sure what kind of life this dog had however. I need help to calm his seperation anxiety and to feel ok with just hanging out outside in his kennel. I’d rather do that than keep him caged y

    • shibashake says

      I helped my dog with his separation anxiety by very slowly getting him used to alone time. I started with very short periods of alone time (seconds) and very slowly build up his tolerance from there.

      The most important thing with helping Sephy is management. During rehabilitation, I made sure not to expose him to situations that he is not ready for. Therefore, if I need to leave for longer than he can handle, I get someone else that he trusts to dog-sit for me.

      I also set up a fixed schedule for him and try to keep to a very fixed schedule myself. This helps to create certainty, which helps to reduce stress.

      The more calm and positive experiences Sephy has, the more confidence he gains and the better his behavior becomes. Similarly, panic or anxiety attacks will undermine that confidence, significantly set back training, and worsen his behavior (anxiety symptoms). Therefore, management is key, together with desensitization exercises.

      This ASPCA article has more on separation anxiety and desensitization-

      More on my experiences with Sephy and separation anxiety.

  17. Linda says

    I have a rescue dog, 9 years old Jack Russell terrier which was abused but I do not know any details. She has been with our family for a week. She is very attached to us just after two days. She has separation anxiety, but her biggest problem is cars where she has panic attacks. She starts shivering, barks without break till the car stops. Something terrible must have happened to her in the car. We tried to introduce her to car and try to be there with her for a few minutes and feed her so she gets some positive experience and also do a few minute journey. It does not help. Please help. I worry that the family will give up on her before she has time to get better.
    Please advise.

    • shibashake says

      For fear and anxiety issues, I do desensitization exercises with my dog. First, I need to start with a very weak version of the fear stimulus. It has to be weak enough that my dog is able to tolerate it and remain calm.

      For example, I may start with having my dog on leash, a certain distance away from the car. I get his attention, and reward. I get him to do some simple commands and reward. If everything goes well, then I move one step closer to the car and repeat. Then, I very slowly build up from there. I always keep sessions short, fun, and very very rewarding. I do this over many different sessions, over days, weeks, or months if necessary.

      Once my dog is comfortable getting close to the car, then I get him to go in, reward, and let him come out right away. From there, I very slowly build up the amount of time he spends in my parked car.

      In the next phase, I start the engine and then stop it right away. The noise of the engine starting may be scary to some dogs. Then, I very slowly build up the amount of time my dog spends in the unmoving car, but with the engine running. And so on.

      The more calm and positive experiences my dog has in the presence of the scary stimulus, the more confidence and trust he gains, and the better his behavior becomes. Similarly, bad experiences will undermine that confidence, significantly set back training, and worsen his anxiety. Therefore, it is very important that I manage his environment and *not* expose him to situations that he is not ready to handle. I start small, and go at a pace that my dog is comfortable with.

      For desensitization to be effective, it has to be carried out in a structured environment and in a very specific way. When I first started doing desensitization exercises with my Shiba, I consulted with a good professional trainer/behaviorist who could help me with diagnosing my dog’s anxiety issues, help me read his body language, help me with timing, management, and more.
      More on desensitization and counter-conditioning.

      Helping a dog deal with serious anxiety issues is going to take a good amount of time and patience.

  18. Nancy says

    I have a 14 month old German Shorthair Pointer. She is very attached to my husband. If we go out she goes completely beserk in her kennel and tears up her bed/blanket or any toys. We have placed her in an over night kennel twice while we have been on week long vacation and she completely destroys her bedding. She gets lots of play time with the kennel employees and is kenneled with our other dog so she is not alone. We have tried eveything but medication. I am wondering if there is something we can give her while we are on vacation to make her kennel stay easier on her.

    • shibashake says

      What you describe sounds like separation anxiety. A dog can become anxious when separated from the people that he trusts, and who he sees as his caregiver and protector. Other people and other dogs may not be seen in the same way, so the anxiety will still be there, even though he may not be alone. What exercises did you try and what was her response?

      I help my dog with separation anxiety by doing desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises. I start small, with very short periods of alone time (seconds), and slowly build up from there. It has to be short enough that my dog can tolerate it without having a panic attack. The more calm and successful experiences my dog has, the more confidence and trust he gains, and the more he can tolerate. Similarly, reactive events and panic episodes will undermine that confidence, significantly set back training, and worsen his anxiety.

      Therefore, management is very important because I do not want to expose my dog to situations that he is not ready to handle. I slowly introduce him to other caretakers and help them build a positive bond with him, so that if I cannot be around, I can get someone else that he trusts to be there. It is the trust and familiarity that is important.

      I also set up a fixed routine for my dog and a consistent set of rules. Routine and consistency help to create certainty and certainty helps to reduce stress.

      This article from the ASPCA has more on separation anxiety and desensitization-

      Medication can help to mute the symptoms of anxiety in the short term, however, it is not a cure, especially for more serious cases. Medication is most commonly used together with a behavior modification program. I would consult with a vet and a good trainer/behaviorist.

  19. Jessica says


    I am looking for some help as well. I have a 9 month old lab/spaniel mix puppy who has always been a little shy but is now terrified of loud noises, walks outside since its been nice, other dogs and people. She sometimes doesnt even want to leave the house and recently has bad anxiety in the car where she never did before. She hasnt been through any traumatic events and has always been introduced to new environments, we’ve traveled since she was 9 weeks old and goes everywhere with me. Please help

    • shibashake says

      When did this behavior start? Did it get worse gradually and did it suddenly get bad? How did she act towards people, other dogs, and noises previously? How is she usually introduced to new environments? What is her reaction? Has she done any desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises?

      My youngest Husky puppy is also a shy dog. When she was young, she was anxious of loud noises and unusual things like people on skate boards. I did a lot of desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises with her, and that was helpful. I also introduce her to new things slowly, and at a pace that she is comfortable with. I want to make sure that her experiences with new things are always positive and successful, so that she slowly builds confidence, and can handle more in the future. Similarly, experiences where she becomes anxious or fearful will undermine her confidence, significantly set back training, and worsen her anxiety. Therefore, it is very important to minimize such events.

      Desensitization has to be carried out in a structured environment and in a very specific way. It was very helpful for me to get guidance from a good professional trainer/behaviorist in the beginning to help with this. Plus, I did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises with my Shiba at our local SPCA where they had some great dogs that they could use during training. We did the training under the direction of a trainer and with trainer chosen dogs.

      Based on what you describe, I would get help from a good professional trainer. It can be a challenge to find a good trainer, because the field is not well regulated, but there are guides that can help with that.

      A good trainer can also meet with our dog, observe her behavior within the context of her regular environment and routine, read her body language, and help with identifying the sources of anxiety.

      More on dog socialization.

  20. Hara says

    Hi, I could really use your advice. I have a Shiba inu, he is 2 years old. He has always been easily scared and jumps at any noise. He is really lovely and sweet but he is scared of people and wont let them touch him unless he gets to know them. He has always enjoys walks and loves being outside but 3 days ago I took him out at night (as per usual) and he was strange, he was pulling to go away from the house as much as possible and didn’t want to turn around to go back home. After that, he woke us up at 3am because he was having a panic attack (gasping, shaking, moving around, etc). It took us ages to calm him down. Since then we realised that he is extremely scared to go to the roundabout we have just in front of our house where we always go and other places close to ours that we always take him to. He always pulls to go as far away from home as possible and wheneve you have to go back he panics, shakes and refuses to move. At home he is ok during the day but at night he has these panic attacks. I don’t know what do to and can’t understand what the stimulus is so desensitation is difficult. Nothing special has hapened, there hasn’t been anything that could have traumatised him so I don’t understand. Now he gets scared for no reason and starts panicking. But it’s particularly the square/roundabout in front of our house that freaks him out. I can even send you a video to show you how he acts (he basically has the same reaction than when he goes to the vet which is very extreme). Do you have any advice? Thank you very much in advance. Hara

    • shibashake says

      He has always been easily scared and jumps at any noise.

      Have you tried desensitizing him to various noises? Perhaps there are noises at night that scare him? Have there been cars or peoeple skateboarding or doing noisy things outside, around the roundabout? Also, if untreated, anxiety issues may worsen with time. A dog may become anxious of more things or become more sensitive to his existing anxiety triggers.

      Where does he sleep at night? Have you tried taping him at night (including taping sound)? Often, with my dogs, what affects them may be something that seems small or inconsequential to me. Therefore, I try to be very very observant. What occurs right before, when he first starts to show symptoms?

      The first thing that I do with anxiety issues is to find the source of the anxiety. If I an unable to accurately identify it, then I get help from a good professional trainer. Some of the trainers that I have visited with, have given me some good observations/insights about Sephy that I didn’t see, because I was too close to the problem.

      I also desensitize my dog to noises that he is afraid of and people. In general, I try to socialize my dog to as many things as possible, and desensitize him to even mild anxiety so that he starts to build confidence early on, and can handle more later on.
      More on noise and people desensitization.
      More on dog socialization.

  21. Reneé says

    *HELP* We have a 16 month old 12 pound female Shiba and sadly I am at my breaking point with her. She has been well trained and goes outside all day long about every hour for potty breaks and we watch her potty outside but she still pee’s inside the house! No one can talk to her without her peeing all over the floor and we are all at our wit’s end. The Vet says she in is good health and has submissive pee issues but we have tried everything to help her to no avail. We are a family of 5 with 3 son’s 16, 13 and 9 and I don’t know what to do and I am tired of cleaning up pee all day, any help would be greatly appreciated :)

    • shibashake says

      Submissive urination is normal canine communication. Dogs do it to show social appeasement. When a dog submissively urinates, he’s trying to convey that he’s not a threat.

      Submissive urination is not really a potty training issue, because the dog is doing the behavior to show appeasement. I help my dog with submissive urination by helping him build confidence. I try to identify things that he is afraid of, e.g. loud noises, and slowly desensitize him to that. I talk more softly to him, I make greetings and play more low key, I do a lot of fun obedience training with him to build a good bond, and I make sure *never* to use physical or verbal punishment.

      Positive and successful interactions, will help him build confidence in terms of interacting with people and his environment. Similarly, putting him in situations he is not ready for, will undermine that confidence, significantly set back training, and cause his behavior to worsen. Therefore, managing my dog’s environment and interactions are very important because I want to minimize situations where he submissively urinates. I want to start small, in a low stimulus environment, and slowly build up my dog’s confidence from there.

  22. Brynn says

    Hi there!
    I’m 16 and have a 6 year old cavachon. My parents are currently going through a divorce and whenever I trade off between houses I bring her with. She seems to be fine at my dads, which is a house and where she’s been living for most of her life, but whenever I take her to my moms she starts acting up. Whenever my mother leaves the house my dog with whimper for hours, even after walks, play time, etc. We keep her in a crate and she begins barking right after we leave. When we come home, her mouth is drenched with spit from endless barking and she runs straight out and to the water dish to get water. She also tears up her bed/blankets inside of the crate. It takes her a long time to settle down once we get home, again even after a walk and play time. Any suggestions for my dog?

  23. Nikolai says

    Hi, I have a senior terrier mix who has become very anxious during family meals. We rescued him as an adult about 10 years ago, and he has had on and off food anxiety/aggression, but it’s gotten better. He has also habitually whined when the family eats meals together, but has usually been easily discouraged.

    However, in recent months, his behavior has gotten much worse. Occasional whining has turned into a non-stop very high-pitched whine that breaks into yowling and yapping, but increasingly it’s been paired with intense shaking, constant pacing, and fearful ears, making it seem more like anxiety than ordinary begging. He looks scared. Often he’ll stare at one of us and start the high-pitched whine and visible shivering, whereas he used to just fixate intensely on the food. He sometimes calms down if he’s on someone’s lap with a blanket over his head, but not always. Verbal reprimands aren’t helping anymore. At first crating him was the best solution. He’d sometimes growl or even snap when someone tried to remove him, but he’d calm down and nap once he was crated. But he’s started to become upset about that, too, whining and howling, and has begun to avoid his crate, which is alarming because he used to seek it out for comfort.

    The anxious whine and shivering has shown up at other times too, for no apparent reason, but it’s much more common during a meal. There aren’t any particular family tensions that he could be picking up on, and he had a check-up with the vet fairly recently, so it doesn’t seem to be any physical problem feeding the anxiety.

    Do you have any thoughts on what we could do? I’m concerned that our attempts to stop his behavior could be making him even more anxious. Thanks for any advice.

    • shibashake says

      I would stay away from verbal reprimands or punishment. These will often worsen anxiety issues.

      he had a check-up with the vet fairly recently

      How recently? Is he eating and drinking normally? Are there any other changes? Did you discuss these symptoms with the vet? With my dogs, physical issues may sometimes show up suddenly. Even though they have just been to the vet, there may be internal issues that may not be readily apparent during their examination.

      Are meal times usually noisy? Does he only show the symptoms when there are loud noises or a particular trigger or triggers?

      If my dog were showing such symptoms, my first priority would be to identify the source of his anxiety. Especially for a senior dog, I would visit with my vet and discuss the symptoms with him. Senior dogs could have dog dementia or old dog syndrome.

      After I am very sure that it is not a physical issue, then I would try to identify what specific things trigger my dog’s anxiety, e.g. is it loud noises, lots of movement, lots of activity, or something else. Once I identify the trigger(s), I can help my dog by managing his environment, keeping him in a low stress/low stimulus environment, and slowly desensitizing him to his anxiety triggers.

      However, the first step is to identify what exactly is triggering my dog’s anxiety.

  24. kate says

    Hi, I wonder if anyone could help? I think my 6 yr old collie is stressed/anxious & its really starting to take over. The problem only arises around our 2 yr old – whenever I have to change her nappy, all hell breaks loose. Same when I get her dressed. Why doesnt he like it when these things happen? He will make a high pitched whine, run around the house like a mad dog and bark loudly. He hates it when we leave the house and does the same routine then. Could he have separation anxiety and is linking the nappychanges/dressing to this? I dont know what to do about it but sometimes he scares me when he is barking loudly. Its quite out of character. Any opinions on what I should do? Thanks

    • shibashake says

      He hates it when we leave the house and does the same routine then.

      When did he start doing this? Was it only after the baby or before as well? What is his daily routine like? What was his routine like before the baby and after? What was his behavior like before and after?

      With my dog, large changes in his environment and routine will cause him stress and anxiety. If I can, I try to introduce changes slowly, so that he can get used to them a little bit at a time. When we moved to a new place, I set up a fixed routine right away, and I tried to create as much certainty as possible. Certainty helps to reduce stress. In addition, my dog loves to go exploring, so I took him hiking on quiet trails, during off-hours. In this way, he has a fun but quiet and relaxing activity, where he can release his stressed out energy.

      Dog behavior is very context dependent, so I observe my dog very closely and try to identify the source of his anxiety. Right before you go out, do you always change baby’s nappy and/or get her dressed? What does your dog do when home alone? Does he chew up stuff, try to escape, pace a lot and can’t settle down, bark the whole time, or something else?

      The first thing that I do with my dog is try to identify the source of his anxiety. Once I identify the source, then I can take steps to manage his environment so as to lessen his sources of stress. In addition, I can also slowly desensitize him to his stress triggers.

      Consulting with a good professional trainer was helpful for Sephy, both in helping us identify the source of his problem behaviors and in coming up with a good plan for rehabilitation. However, the dog training field is not well regulated, and it was a challenge for us to find a good trainer, who had good experience, and actually understood the science behind dog behavior.

      More on separation anxiety-

  25. Kay Krause says

    I have a shitzu around 7 yrs. old. I have had her about one year. She was with a lady who was elderly and was on her lap most of the time. I acquired her when the lady became I’ll and eventually died. She adjusted very well, but has issues with noise. My 91 yr old mom and I live together in a mobile home. Our house is quiet except for when it gets really cold, the house will pop real loud sometimes. During the day, Emmie, the dog, will just go under my mom’s bed. At night, however, she sleeps with me and when the house pops she gets up and states walking on me and takes her paw and gently touches my face. I try to get her to lay down, but it never works. She justs walks on me and over me till I can hardly stand it. I am not sure what to do. What do you think about playing music to mask the sounds? I can hardly desensitize her from something that sporadically happens. In the day, she just goes under the bed quietly. It is only at night that she is so obnoxious. She is also afraid of the dryer, and sirens and whistles, even on t.v. Even if someone one on t.v. whistles through their teeth when talking. When that happens she just goes under mom’s bed. Help, please.

  26. Sharon says

    Hi there. We have been fostering English bull terriers for a few rescues since we lost ours. They have had a few issues which we have been able to train out and deal with before releasing to their furever home, but we have just got one who is super high anxiety level, and food aggressive though this I believe is linked to his anxiety. Oh yeah, he is deaf too.
    Anyway, when he is doing his anxious behaviour he runs to different corners of the room manically and sometimes digs them. He has recently started barking like he has heard something too.
    These episodes can last 30secs or up to an hour. There doesn’t seem to be any triggers. He will be chilling on the floor or in his crate or in the kitchen and the just suddenly get up and start manically running and lacing into corners.
    I was told to ignore the behaviour and he would eventually calm down and learn to be calm but this seems a little strange, should you correct negative behaviour?
    It was also suggested he have a safe area where he won’t be disturbed, but he is quite happy just chilling by patio doors or by sofa, then suddenly just get up and pace again.
    He is on herbal meds for anxiety which I don’t know how much that helps.
    He does not get anxious when he is left or at bed time, and is beyond chilled out.
    Would it be better to leave him to his own devises when he is being anxious or correct the behaviour?
    He is always calm when we go for walks, I ensure we do not leave the house until he is calm state.
    I work from home so am around all day.
    Any thoughts would be much appreciated.


    • shibashake says

      When dealing with anxious dog behavior, I need to address the source of the behavior, which is the anxiety itself. I never punish my dog for anxiety behaviors because he is not in control of those behaviors, rather they are symptoms of his stress.

      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.

      I have never had a deaf dog before, so I am not familiar with the problems that they commonly face. Could he be reacting to changing lights and shadows, vibrations, changing smells?

      This article has some good information about deaf dogs, including how they have a highly developed sensitivity to smells and vibration or air movement.
      This website has more information on deaf dogs.

      If I were in a similar situation, I would get help from a good professional trainer who has good experience with deaf dogs. To help my dog with their anxiety, I first need to identify where the anxiety is coming from, and an experienced trainer can help me with that.

    • Rachel says


      I recently got a dog from a shelter. She is a doxen mixed with maybe a terrier? They told me she was around a year of age. She is very shy.

      We’ve had her about a month now and for the most part, she is good about potty training. We did have to crate her while we were at work, but now she is holding it throughout the day (I come home and let her out at lunch).

      Here is the problem. She is scared. You light a candle, listen to music, watch television, open a door and she is scared. We even got a bell so she could tell us when she needs to go outside and the first time I rang it, she ran upstairs and hid. I can deal with a scared dog, but now if my husband walks toward her she pees. For some reason she’s terrified of him. He’s never hurt or even yelled at her. The worst part about this is she’s peeing on our couches. Not cool.

      I’m not too sure what else to do with her. We’ve worked with desensitizing her to what seems to scare her, BUT she scared of virtually everything. Being scared is one thing, peeing is another.

      Any advice would be much appreciated.

    • shibashake says

      The peeing thing sounds like submissive urination-

      My younger Husky also started out being more fearful of men. Men are larger and have deeper voices and this can be scary to a submissive dog. To appear less scary, I sit on the floor, and make sure there is “no talk, no touch, and no eye-contact. No eye-contact is especially important as that can be threatening to a fearful dog.

      For example, with my dog, I sit on the floor and place a bunch of yummy food a fair distance around me. Then I read a book and let my dog approach me on her own to eat the food. I do not talk, touch, or initiate eye-contact. I repeat this until she is comfortable with getting the food. Then I *very slowly* increase the challenge.
      More on how I desensitize my dog to other people.

      The *key* with desensitization is to start small and to always go at a pace that my dog is comfortable with. Positive and successful experiences will help my dog build confidence. Similarly, bad experiences or panic attacks will undermine that confidence, significantly set back training, and worsen her anxiety. Therefore, I manage my dog carefully and make sure that I do not expose her to new stimulus that she is not ready for. I start by keeping her in a very low stimulus environment and I introduce new things slowly and at a pace that she can handle.

      In the beginning, I got help from a good professional trainer because desensitization exercises can be counter-intuitive. For it to work well, I really need to manage my dog’s environment very carefully.

  27. kmp says

    I have a Border collie who will be turning a year this month. When he is in his crate he chews himself, sometimes throws up, and obsessively licks and pants while in his crate. He hasn’t always done this, just recently. Is this anxiety? Any advice? Thanks!

    • shibashake says

      Hmmm, does he do this behavior anywhere else? When does he go into his crate? Does he usually go into his crate only when people are about to leave? Where is his crate? Did anything unusual happen around the time this behavior started, e.g. changes in your routine, unusual noises, new people in the house?

    • kmp says

      He sleeps in his crate at night, and when we leave. My husband and I are on different schedules so he is out most of the time. We recently moved, maybe the new place has him stressed?

    • shibashake says

      Does he also show the same behaviors when he sleeps in his crate at night or is it only when you leave?

      We recently moved, maybe the new place has him stressed?

      Yeah, moving to a new place can be very stressful to a dog. The last time we moved, I helped my Shiba cope with his stress by-
      1. Setting up a fixed routine right away that is as close to his previous routine as possible.
      2. Setting up a consistent set of rules that is as similar as possible to what he had before.
      3. I spent more time with him and exercised him more, doing his favorite activities. Sephy likes to explore so I took him on longer walks in *very quiet* trails, during off-hours, so that it is a calm and relaxing environment where he can de-stress. Calm and structured exercise gave him a good outlet for his anxious energy.

      In general, I try to create as much certainty and consistency as possible.

      If there are changes in noise-level, new sounds, or something else in the new environment that is causing him stress, I try to identify each of those things, and slowly desensitize him to each one.

      When in doubt, I consult with a good professional trainer.

  28. Kim Carlson says

    My sister in law has a 1 year old lab that I know has separation anxiety from her. He drools, poops, chews.. so she rarely leaves him. My question is, can loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting also be a symptom? Even if other family members are home with him and he doesn’t show all the major panting and chewing and pooping type symptoms? Yet a day or so later can he be affected from her being gone with symptoms? She has had him checked at the vet several times on different occasions, and changed his food to sensitive or allergy related already.

    • shibashake says

      With my dog’s separation anxiety, it was helpful to slowly desensitize him to alone time. Desensitization exercises helped him to build confidence and teaches him to relax in his own company. This article from the ASPCA has some good information on separation anxiety and desensitization-

      The key is not only to maximize positive and calm alone time, but also to minimize negative events and anxiety attacks. The more positive experiences my dog has, the more confidence he builds and the better his behavior becomes. Similarly, bad experiences and panic attacks will undermine that confidence, significantly set back training, and worsen his anxiety symptoms. Therefore, during the entire rehabilitation period, I need to carefully manage my dog and not expose him to situations that he cannot handle. In particular, I want to help him stay below his reactivity threshold and ensure that he does not suffer from any anxiety or panic attacks.

      My question is, can loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting also be a symptom?

      Those sound like pretty serious symptoms. Has the dog shown these symptoms before? Has the separation anxiety been going on for 1 year? Is it getting worse? What food is he currently on?

      Personally, I would take the dog to the vet to make sure that everything is ok. Then, I would consult with a good behaviorist/trainer so that I can start a plan for desensitization training and rehabilitation.

  29. Kim says

    Great website, and so nice to see some Shiba specific experience! We have 3 shibas, ranging from 4.5 to 7 years old. One of the dogs (we’re not entirely sure which one) has recently started pooping inside the house.

    We are aware that this is anxiety induced, as it’s happened once before. Last time, was in the weeks leading up to our wedding where clearly there were alot of breaks in their routine, strangers around constantly, and general commotion in the house. Luckily, the behavior subsided once all those stimuli were removed and we resumed our routine.

    This time however, is likely due to the upcoming addition of a baby to the family. Any experience or tips on how to alleviate the anxiety since clearly these changes/stimuli will not be going away . . . .


  30. roxx says

    I have a 2yr old pit bull her name is roxy I have had her for a year I got her to be a friend to my other pit champ hes just the best dog in the world he does nothing wrong but roxy is so anxious & nervous and does everything wrong I think because shes so nervous she does the opposite of what I tell her to do evry noise,fast movement flash lights,candles scare her she hates to be in the house I let her out then she hates to be in the yard and starts to dig her way out then once she gets out she wants to come bk in the house but shes to scared to come in so she barks n barks ill open door to let her in n she runs away I just don’t understand her plz help!!!911

    • shibashake says

      Do the two dogs get along? What are their usual interactions? What is Roxy’s daily routine like? Is the home environment noisy? Are there things that can be done to mask out the noise and lights? What type of training is Roxy used to? Has Roxy always been this anxious or was there a sudden or gradual change in behavior? Has Roxy been to the vet to have her hearing and vision checked?

      Physical issues and pain can sometimes cause a dog to feel more vulnerable, and become more stressed and anxious. When there are sudden changes in behavior with my dog, I always rule out physical issues first.

      For anxiety issues, the first thing that I do with my dog is try to identify the key sources of his anxiety. Once I identify those,
      1. I take steps to manage my dog’s environment and try to remove those key sources of anxiety. I mask out noise, I keep my dog in a quiet low stimulus area of the house, etc. This is extremely important because the more panic attacks and anxiety episodes my dog has, the more that will undermine his confidence, and the more anxious he will be.
      2. I slowly desensitize my dog to each of the things that he is anxious about. With desensitization it is very important that I start small, with a very weakened version of the problem stimulus so that I can pair it with rewards and positive experiences. The more positive and calm experiences my dog has in the presence of the stimulus, the more confidence he builds, and the better his behavior will be. More on how I desensitize my dog to noise.

      The key is to maximize positive and calm experiences to help my dog build confidence. At the same time, I also want to set my dog up for success and *not* expose him to situations that he cannot handle, which will undermine his confidence, significantly set back training, and cause his anxiety to get worse.

      Note however, that dog behavior is very context dependent and anxiety issues and rehabilitation can be complex. Based on what you describe, I would get help from a good professional trainer who can observe Roxy in her regular environment and routine, help identify key sources of anxiety, and help develop a good and effective plan for rehabilitation.

  31. 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

    • shibashake says

      What exactly is triggering her anxiety? Is it particular sounds in the house? Smells? People voices? Has her anxiety always been this bad, or has it gradually gotten worse? What type of training is she accustomed to? What is her daily routine?

      Dog behavior is very context dependent and desensitization can be complex and counter-intuitive. With Sephy, we got help from several professional trainers who could observe him, and help us identify the triggers that cause his reactive or anxious behaviors. After we identified those triggers, we came up with a plan for desensitizing him towards each of those triggers. It was helpful to have a good trainer guide me in the process, especially in the beginning.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.
      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.

  35. 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.

  36. Stephanie says


    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.

  37. 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?

  38. Tanya says

    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.

  39. 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.

      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-

      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.

  40. 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…


  41. 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.

      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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

    • 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.

  46. 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.

      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.

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