Dog Anxiety Problems – How to Deal with an Anxious Dog

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

Some common dog anxiety problems include -

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

Symptoms of Dog Anxiety

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

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

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

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

Dog Anxiety Solution 1 – Desensitization

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dog Anxiety Solution 2 – Calm Environment

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

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

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

Dog Anxiety Solution 3 – Calming Equipment

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

1. Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP)

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

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

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

2. Dog Calming Music

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

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

What is the right kind of dog music?

According to sound researcher Joshua Leeds,

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

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

3. Thundershirt

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

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

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

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

~~ [ Putting the Squeeze on Doggie Anxiety ]

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

Dog Anxiety Solution 4 – Medication

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

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

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

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

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

~~[Pill-Popping Pets]

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

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

Dog Anxiety Problems

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

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

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

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

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  1. Holly says

    We recently just purchased a puppy Rottweiler around 7 months old, he seems to have really bad separation anxiety, we leave him in his crate with a kong and we know he crys when we’re not there, he’s recently pooing in the crate- it started off with him pooing during the day sometimes but now he’s started doing it in the morning before we get up and more frequent
    He try’s to escape the crate aswell and when he does he poos and now wees over the lounge floor, we thought it was the crate so we left him out of it for a couple of hours and he just pooed, when he escapes he jumps at the window and the blinds are all damaged
    Also when we let him out for the toilet he stands at the door and scratches it even when he needs the toilet, we researched that putting him in the crate while we are in should help but all he does it cry and try and escape and pace up and down it
    We really don’t know what to do with him because he’s such an affectionate dog but we’re worried if he doesn’t get better we’ll have re-home him

    • Marika Koncek says

      Your crate sounds far too big, there should be no room for pacing or pooping. a crate should only allow the dog to just stand up lie down and be no longer then his body, for a dog to feel secure. Also you need to first get the dog used to a crate before shutting the door by feeding treats, then shit the door and give him his dinner while your home, then slowly increase the time he spends in there while your home, then once he can be in there while your home and in another room then and only then can you leave him there while you exit the house for five minutes, then ten minutes then slowly increase the time. If you don’t try and desensitize the dog to all of these things it will just get worse! Please do your best to fix the problem even if it means hiring a dog trainer, rehoming can make the problems worse and then the dog ends up in a shelter and then be euthanized. Rottweilers are such amazing dogs, don’t give up!

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, desensitization exercises also helped with my Shiba Inu, Sephy. I start with extremely short periods of alone time (seconds), and then slowly build up his tolerance from there.

      The more positive successful experiences Sephy had, even with just very short alone periods, the more confidence he gained and the more calm he became. Similarly, bad experiences and panic attacks will undermine his confidence and significantly set back training. Therefore, it was very important during his entire rehabilitation process, to prevent future panic attacks from occurring. I was at home with him a lot of the time, but when I cannot be home I arrange for someone that he trusts to house-sit.

      How long have you had your puppy? What is his daily routine like? Was this anxiety present at the beginning? What kind of training has he had?

      During puppy-hood, I have my puppy in the bedroom with me during the night. In this way, puppy doesn’t feel lonely, and it can also help with bonding. I am also right there if my puppy needs to potty, so that I can quickly bring him out and reward him for doing the right thing. Both my Sibes prefer to roam around downstairs, now that they are older, but Shiba still likes being in the bedroom with us.

      With anxiety issues, I first identify the source of the anxiety. Once I know this, I can help my dog overcome his anxiety through careful desensitization work, and also by preventing further panic attacks. The more panic attacks there are, the more anxious my dog will become, and the worse his behavioral symptoms will be. Desensitization will take time and effort, but it is really worth it in the end to have a more confident and happy fur-companion.

      ASPCA article with a lot of good information on separation anxiety.
      How I helped Sephy with his separation anxiety.

      As for crates, it depends on the dog and situation. Here is an excerpt from the ASPCA article above-

      Crate training can be helpful for some dogs if they learn that the crate is their safe place to go when left alone. However, for other dogs, the crate can cause added stress and anxiety. In order to determine whether or not you should try using a crate, monitor your dog’s behavior during crate training and when he’s left in the crate while you’re home. If he shows signs of distress (heavy panting, excessive salivation, frantic escape attempts, persistent howling or barking), crate confinement isn’t the best option for him.

      When in doubt, I get help from a good professional trainer.

  2. Jean Lindsey says

    I have a Jack Russell Chiwawa mix that I rescued from a shelter when he was about 2/3 months old. He is now about 2 years old. Recently we have moved from an apartment to a house. He started doing this screaming and running around like he was in severe pain and it only last a couple seconds off and on for about 5 minutes. He was doing this almost daily and then he started back to plucking our other dog and leaving bald spots on her. After he started to loose weight and getting a little aggressive with my husband over little things I took him to the vet. They said he had a bowel issue and put him on some antibiotics. That worked for all of 3 weeks. Then his symptoms started over. The vet over time got aggravated with me and I ended up switching vets. At the second visit with the new vet he put him on the same antibiotics and they cycle had started over. I finally got him on video doing this screaming thing and the vet stated he was having a panic attack and that the stress of us getting ready to leave in the morning was causing this. The vet stated that with anxiety can come bowel problems and aggression. We were then referred to a behavior specialist but are unable to actually take him to be examined due to the high cost of this. It really saddens me because his ribs are showing and he is back to literally going crazy when we leave. Any suggestions on how to handle this on our own?

    • shibashake says

      When did the move occur? Did the behavior start right after the move? How was he before the move? Does he only do these behaviors when people are leaving or when nobody is home? Is he losing weight because he is no longer eating? Does he not eat even when people are around? What is his daily routine like?

      My dog really likes having a fixed routine and consistency. When we moved houses, I quickly set up a fixed schedule and a consistent set of rules. This creates certainty, which helps to reduce his stress from all the changes around him. I talk more about how I create a calm environment in the article above.

      A dog also used to become anxious when we leave the house. This is also called separation anxiety. I helped my dog with that by doing desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises. The important thing with desensitization however, is that I had to make sure to prevent panic attacks from recurring. Each panic attack will undermine my dog’s confidence, make him even more anxious, and his behavior will worsen.

      This ASPCA article has a lot of good information on separation anxiety.
      How I help my dog with separation anxiety.

      However, it is important to note that dog behavior is very context dependent. Each dog and each situation is different, which is why visiting with a professional trainer/behaviorist can be very helpful. When I was having difficulties with my Shiba, we visited with several trainers so that they could observe Sephy, help us identify the source of his negative behaviors, guide us in reading his body language, and more.

      If we misdiagnose our dog, then we run the risk of doing the wrong thing and possibly making things worse. During Sephy’s difficult period, I also read up a lot on dog behavior so that I could better read him and help him become more balanced.

      Where I get my dog training and dog behavior information.

  3. Cindy says


    Thanks so much for this advice! I found it very helpful, however I was wondering if you can give me some specific advice on my dogs unusual Anxiety.

    Her story:

    She is a four-year old yellow Labrador and has very decent behavior when at home. She follows a strict diet and routine, as she gets fed twice a day at the same time and goes for daily walks around our neighborhood. When walking through the neighborhood she is fine, mellow and occasionally pulls but can definitely be controlled. She also can be left alone in the house with out any type of problem.

    Now the problem:
    Whenever we take her out to other places such as the beach, dog park, lake, or simply on a hike -her anxiety level is out of control. It all begins when we get in the car, and she starts panting severely, puts her tail between her legs and tries to stand as still as possible.

    Now once we arrive and she leaves the car is when it all goes downhill….She constantly whimpers and pants to the point of vomiting. She also gets an uncontrollable oral fixation issue that causes her to pick up anything she can fit in her mouth. Now this wouldn’t be that bad of an issue, however even if we give her a tennis ball, she will still try to pick up sticks that are 5 times her size, which causes her mouth to bleed. She has even tried to pick up fallen trees and has dragged them while crying because it hurts her mouth so bad. We try to intervene by focusing her attention on a more acceptable object, like a frisbee ,tennis ball or smaller stick but she becomes obsessive and will not leave the object of her desire, even if it is causing her pain until we leave the place we are at. During this time, her energy levels are through the roof and it affects the other dogs around her, and it causes her and them to become aggressive.

    I would like to restate that she never has this behavior at home and it feels like it only happens when she is in a new place. I recently took her on a longer walk, to a place she had never been ( we didn’t have to use the car) and my Fiance went into the store while I waited with her outside. The extreme panting began again, and I attempted to soothe her and kept a tight grip on the leash. Then an unknown man came out of the store, and our lab charged him, and wailed me into a pole so hard that it caused tissue damage on my arm. I must admit I am not the strongest person I know, but her pull was simply uncontrollable.

    We really feel bad for her, because she isn’t a bad dog, her anxiety just takes over and we know this is not healthy for her. We don’t want to not take her out places either, because we also have another younger dog ( a pitbull mix) who acts very normal when out, and we would like to do things with them together. We would give endless amounts of desensitizing training as we are very eager to resolve this, but we are confused as to where to begin.

    If you have any advice, it would be greatly appreciated!

    I apologize for this being so long.

    Thanks in Advance,


    • shibashake says

      How long have you had her? Has she always been this way? When did this behavior start? What is her background?

      With my dog, I start small, set her up for success, and very slowly increase the challenge. In the beginning, I start leash training in a very safe, low stimulus area, e.g. my backyard. I keep repeating this until my dog is totally comfortable with this. I try to keep walks positive and fun.

      Once we are good with that, then I *very slowly* increase the environmental challenge. For example, I may do shorter, but more frequent walks close to the house and so on. The more successful walks we have, the more confidence my dog gains, and the less anxious she becomes. Similarly, the more panic attacks and negative experiences she has, the more fearful and anxious she becomes, which her undermine her confidence and set back training.

      Therefore, the most important thing with desensitizing my dog is to maximize successful walks and prevent negative experiences. I don’t try to push my dog too far too fast, and only very slowly build up our distance from home.

      Some dogs may also be fearful of new people, new sounds, new dogs, etc. So if my dog is afraid of these things, I also slowly desensitize her to each of these triggers, starting with the one that is most problematic.

      Note however, that dog behavior is very context dependent. Therefore, each dog and each situation is different. When in doubt, I get help from a good professional trainer.

      More on desensitization and counter-conditioning.
      More on dog socialization.

  4. Wiggle Butt says

    I adopted a 2 year old female Boxer. She has been with me for almost a month. When I have my male friends come over for a visit, Cheyenne starts jumping on the friends, running around the back yard as if she is uncomfortable with my friends being there. I don’t have more than one friend over at a time. After my friends leave, Cheyenne will then relax. I am trying to introduce her to my friends slowly as she has been in a shelter and then at a rescue most of her 2 years of life. Do you have any suggestions>

    Thank you.

    • shibashake says

      My Husky Lara shows similar behavior. In her case, it is because of over-excitement. She gets so excited when people visit, that she loses control, and she doesn’t know what to do with all her excited energy. Usually she runs around, jumps, and vocalizes.

      With Lara, it was because we did not socialize her enough to different people when she was young. My Shiba Inu was also pretty reactive when he was young, but we did a lot of positive socialization and desensitization work with him, so now he is the most calm of my three dogs.

      Here is more on the people desensitization exercises I did with Sephy.
      Here is more on dog socialization.

      When people come to visit, I make sure to properly manage Lara. I put a leash on her so that I can properly control her and stop her from getting too excited. Distance will weaken the “person” stimulus. I also make sure that the person is totally ignoring her – absolutely no eye-contact. This is very important, because eye-contact can be seen as an invitation to interact, and this will get Lara even more excited.

      I stand a certain distance away from the person, far enough away that Lara is still able to stay in control, listen, and learn. Then I start doing desensitization exercises. During the whole time I make sure that the person is ignoring Lara.

      Big hugs to Cheyenne! I am so glad that she has found such a wonderful home. :D

  5. iza says

    this was very helpful.. we have had our shiba inu pup for nearly three months and he IS house trained although we do keep pee pads in the house in the event that i miss an outing and even then he will only use it for pees.. i am a stay at home mom with 2 kids and a cat and i find it difficult to keep a schedule, mostly because i am scatterbrained, but also because of our young ones.. but now our pup has been expressing stress anxiety, in the form of chewing up plastic toys that belong to the kids, toilet paper, or wooden anything, peeing in the house and barking, whining or crying if we leave the house.. we have tried to make him feel secure by getting him a kennel and keeping it in our room, so he can be near our smells.. i know he likes it because i have found him in there on his own just hanging out.. but the chewing and especially the peeing in the house isn’t getting better.. the most i try and establish, routine-wise, is playing with him one on one at night before we all retire to bed and walking him in the morning and at noon.. my husband chips in too.. but i was wondering if you could give me a little insight.. we are a military family, so we visit a lot and will have to move often, about every 3 years, so he will find himself in strange locations with strange people and strange smells isolated from his pack, we are also active in our community and our oldest will be starting school soon.. is it too much for us to expect our pup to adapt to all this? am i just going to have to look forward to more anxiety displays?

  6. Margaret Handley says

    I need advice on how to help my dog with an anxiety which is not listed here. He has a huge toy anxiety. What I mean by that is he will play till he drops. He gets extremely worked up over toys and fixates on them. He pants heavily and shakes and salivates. He wont leave you alone even if you throw the toy for him to fetch because he brings it right back. This can go on for hours. I am concerned about his health and how this much anxiety is ad for him.

  7. Vicky Maines says

    I have a lab/ collie and he has been driving us nuts for the past couple of month and I believe its anxiety. My story begins. My husband had 2 dogs for the past 14 years. We had to put one to sleep a couple of months ago due to cancer. we also had a cat that was with him for 10 years that we had to put down at the same time as the other dog due to cancer also. We had 4 cats and 2 dogs at one time. My husband went to rehab for 30 days and while he was away all the animals were too much to handle and we couldn’t afford them so we had to give them up to a sanctuary. When he got home from rehab he lived with his parents for a while until be could reconcile our marriage. The dog will not let me sleep he paces wines and barks all the time. I thought it was because he missed my husband so he came back home. it didn’t not solve the problem at all. I don’t know what to do. I feel so bad for him but the house needs to get uninterrupted sleep. I don’t know what to do. Please help me.

    Vicky Maines

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, large changes in their environment and routine can cause a great deal of stress to a dog.

      With my dog (Sephy), I try to re-establish as much certainty and consistency as possible. After we moved, I quickly set up a fixed routine and a consistent set of rules. I also increased supervision and spent more time with Sephy, engaging him in various positive and structured activities. We also went on longer walks, in quiet hiking trails. In this way, he gets to explore and relax in a peaceful environment. The structured activities redirect him from his stress, and gives him positive outlets for his energy.

      Sephy is also very sensitive to my energy. If I am stressed our and unhappy, he will pick up on that and become stressed out himself. To help him stay calm, I need to stay calm and relaxed myself.

      What is your dog’s daily routine like? How has it changed in the past couple of months? Is he eating and drinking normally? How is his physical health?

  8. Jessica says

    I have a 7 month old Chinese Sharpei/Lab Mix who I adopted from PACC when he was 4 months old. We currently have him in obidience training and have been working closely with my dog trainer to prevent his severe seperation anxiety. We have tried natural herbal medication and dietary suppliments and recently went to our vet where they prescribed him Prozac. Unfortunately, the medication made everything worse so we took him off of it. Our vet had no other recommendations other than to see a behavioral trainer. Luke, my puppy, has torn up my carpet by the front door, has broken the wooden paneling surrounding the door, and has practically ripped our French doors off the walls. We have tried crating him while we work and he has made it a point that he doesn’t want to be in it by chewing on the crate door and bending it to no repair. Luke would rather be around you and follow around the house then play with his favorite toy. We have tried kong toys, long walks, leaving the house and coming back, locking him in his crate, and desensitizing him but nothing works. Mind you, we have been working hard at this since the first week we adopted him. We’re honestly at a total lose at this point and we need some solutions and answers! Please help us!!!

    • shibashake says

      With my Shiba Inu Sephy, the key thing in terms of helping him with his separation anxiety, is to make sure he doesn’t go into panic mode during the entire rehabilitation period. Each time he went into panic mode, it would erode his confidence and certainty, and it would set back our retraining. So with Sephy, I make sure to maximize successes (which will help build his confidence), and I prevent bad alone experiences, which will undo my retraining work.

      If I cannot be home, then I get someone to watch him or take him out on a walk. I also tried daycare, but that didn’t really suit him because of his temperament. However, many dogs enjoy the daycare experience so it depends. In this way, I can prevent him from going into panic mode, which will worsen his anxiety.

      With that arranged, I can start retraining him to be more relaxed with alone time by starting small, in a very structured context, and only *very slowly* increasing alone time when he is ready for it.

      This ASPCA article has good information on how to *slowly* desensitize a dog to alone time. Look in the section on Treatment for Moderate to Severe 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.



    • shibashake says

      When did the behavior start? When did the move occur? Are there any other changes in behavior? Is her poop normal? Is she eating and drinking normally? How is her energy level? How does she seem physically? Does she seem stressed out?

      Moving to a new environment can be very stressful for a dog. After I moved, I quickly set up a fixed routine and schedule for my dog. I also set up a consistent set of rules and increased my level of supervision. I took my dog out for longer hikes in quiet and relaxing trails, so that he can have fun and chill out (only if the issue is stress based).

      My dogs don’t generalize potty training lessons across different indoor locations. They are potty trained at my house, but they may mark at the pet store, in daycare, or in someone else’s house. A potty refresher course may be necessary after a move.

  10. David Hill says

    We have a Pekinese and a Bichon Maltese. The Bichon runs away from my wife and hides all day when I am at work and will refuse to eat for days unless I hand feed her. I suppose it is a form of separation anxiety, but at times it feels like mind games. Thoughts?

    • shibashake says

      How old is she? How long have you had her? When did this behavior start? What type of training is she used to? What is her daily routine like? How is she with other people? How does she get along with the other dog?

      With anxiety issues, I first try to identify the source of the anxiety, i.e. what is triggering the anxiety. I try to observe closely and get as detailed as possible. For example, is it fear of punishment? fear of certain people? fear of a certain tone of voice? fear of the other dog? fear of outside noises?

      Once I understand the source of my dog’s anxiety, then I can help her cope with it through management and desensitization.

  11. says

    Hello there! I have a 4-year old husky/shepherd mix with a confusing anxiety problem. I am an animal trainer & have several dog trainer friends all of whom are stumped with our problem. My dog’s anxieties appear to deal with smells. While we are out walking he will be calm and all of a sudden start sniffing the air, his tail will slowly lower until it is tucked underneath him and he will bolt in random directions. Excessive lip licking and panting also occur. I have narrowed down some things:
    it generally occurs in the afternoon-early evening walk.
    it hardly ever occurs in winter- spring & summer are the worst.
    certain neighborhoods or blocks are almost constant triggers, but we can walk by some perfectly calmly in the morning.
    I believe it is cooking smells and/or smoke that is his trigger. This makes sense because warmer months are barbecuing time, most people barbecue in the late afternoon & his anxiety is worse on the weekends.
    When his anxiety begins occurring we keep him to a very regular schedule and walk him around a cemetery nearby where he is almost always comfortable. When he does become nervous we employ the abrupt stop and change direction since it distracts him from his anxiety and forces him to pay more attention to us. We’ve tried having him give cued behaviors & rewarding that to distract him but he will refuse treats when anxious. We also try to do the majority of his exercise (dog park trips & 3-5 mile runs with me) in the morning so that his evening walk can be shorter. HIs anxiety only occurs in “neighborhoods” where there area people & houses. We frequently take him camping & hiking & he has NEVER had an episode at these places. That is the one thing that has me stumped-he does not like being in the direct line of campfire smoke but exhibits no anxiety and will even sleep 10 feet away from it. The only thing I can come up with is that he sees the source of the smoke smell. The few times I have walked him past the neighbors barbecuing he seems to calm down. Do you have any thoughts? Have you come across a dog with a smell anxiety before? I should mention we got (rescued) him from a family that kept him confined to the kitchen 24/7 and he had never walked on a leash until 7 months old. Thank you for any input on this.

    • shibashake says

      Could it be cigarette smell?

      Both my Huskies back away when smokers come close to pet them, even if at that time, the people are not smoking. They are fine with other types of smoke, it is just the smell of cigarette smoke that makes them anxious.

      Does your dog avoid the kitchen or show any signs of stress wrt. the kitchen when home? Does he show any anxious behavior when you cook? Has he been around any smokers? Were there any smokers in his previous environment?

      I have had both my Huskies since 8 weeks old, so their reaction is not based on any past aversive event, but simply because they do not like being around the smell. However, I imagine a dog who has had previous negative associations with the smell would likely have a much stronger reaction to it.

    • Gretchen says

      He does not like cigarette smell but does not avoid people that smoke. He will let them pet him but then sneeze and walk away. He does not exhibit the anxiety problem around them.

  12. Kerry says

    Hi there, I have a Lasso Apso x Toy Poodle (Jethro) who, I think, is suffering from anxiety as he is very timid throughout the day, barking at every noise and anything outside the house especially people arriving at our neighbour’s house, or people coming to visit our house or even coming into our cul-de-sac. He can hear cars arriving from down the street, he is already growling as they begin to turn in the cup-de-sac. He constantly growls and chases our cat who he has grown up with. She is now 15 years old and he is making her life miserable. We also have an adorable 15 year old Cocker Spaniel who is not as energetic anymore, but they are best friends. The problem with Jethro is that he is becoming so unbearable timid at almost everything and very protective. He is now barking at any animal that appears on the television. To begin with it was just dogs, now it is any animal even cartoon animals. He almost rips the lounge chair by grabbing and shaking the cushion then rushing towards the television growing and barking constantly until there is a scene where the animal/s isn’t there. He has also begun barking and growling at some male characters. It is obvious that he dislikes males as these are his target if one comes anywhere near our house. He is ok when we take him for walks at the dog beach. He is well-behaved with other dogs and people although he does walk in a criss-cross pattern and is quite protective of our cocker spaniel if she wanders off. We have mentioned his anxiety to our vet and they thought is may be due to a urinary infection and took samples for testing but came back negative. We are concerned with the increased nature of his behaviour and worried that he may become so anxious that he may bite someone in the future. He is untrustworthy at present and we daren’t let him out the front of the house without being on a lead during the day. He is also nervous of particular items such as black bowl we have for his dry food. If he gets to the bottom of the bowl it sits and barks until we tip the biscuits out. He is also nervous of our garbage bin when it is in the dark or other strange or unusual objects that may come up. We noticed his behaviour change when he was less than 2 years, after we had renovations done. Builders were in and out of the house lot and not always with our supervision. His first fear was of the broom and he still hates it when I pick up the broom or start the vacuum cleaner. He runs from the room with his tail down. My feeling is that he may have been hit with the broom by the builders and thus his anxiety of the broom and also males… He does not respond to females with the same vengeance. He does not respond in the same way with family members either. He does however, growl and bar his teeth if he is curled up and doesn’t want to be picked up or touched. He has had a recent health check and the vet is not a good place for him, he runs and pulls to get out. He is stiff and hard to relax. I have used massage and music to keep him calm and taken him for longer walks. He is very energetic. Does he need more exercise? I am running out of ideas. He is a lovely little dog and it is distressing for all of us to think he may be suffering from anxiety.

    • shibashake says

      Some things that have helped my dog in terms of anxiety-
      1. Desensitization and counter conditioning exercises.
      I start with a very weak version of the problem stimulus and slowly build up his tolerance for it in a positive and structured way. More on how I desensitized my Husky towards loud noises and people.

      2. Fixed routine and consistent rules.
      My dog often gets stressed when there is a lot of uncertainty in his life. Therefore, I try to create as much certainty as possible by setting up a fixed routine, consistent rules, and making him work for the things that he wants (Nothing in Life is Free). In this way, he knows exactly what to expect from me, from the other dogs in the household, from other people, and also what I expect from him. I also try to be very calm and decisive when interacting with my dog, so that he will pick up on that energy and know that he can count on me.

      3. Outlet for my dog’s nervous energy.
      When we moved, I took my dog out for longer hikes in very quiet, low stimulus places, where he can be relaxed and enjoy himself exploring the landscape. This also gives him a positive outlet for his nervous energy. I also play structured games with him at home.

      4. Maximize success and minimize failure.
      I make sure not to expose my dog to situations which he cannot handle. This is important because I am trying to build up his confidence through desensitization and creating a calm environment. The more successes we have, the more confidence he will build. However, bad experiences will undermine that confidence and significantly set back our progress.

      I talk more about the things that I do with my dogs in the article above and also here. A bit more on how dogs learn.

  13. pinkpot says

    Hi I just saw a documentary on anxious dogs and now i’m very worried.
    The documentary was about separation anxiety, but while watching it I got worried about a different problem.
    I have two toy poodles who are brother and sister(both neutered), and the boy poodle(Keanu) is very very super attached to me. I just thought he was really affectionate, but it’s gotten to a point where all he does is follow me around, stare at me all day with sad yearning eyes, whine in a tiny tiny voice endlessly untill I hug him, and when I do hold him he is really nervous and agitated and doesn’t really enjoy the hug but just frets around, or licks me so intensely, which goes on forever untill I have to stop him. My husband loves both dogs but since Keanu is absolutely just obssessed with me my hubby thinks Keanu wants me all for himself and is even jealous of my hubby. Another thing that kind of creeps me out now that I think about it is when I open my eyes in the morning, his face is right in front of me, like he has been watching me all morning…This weird behaviour was not evident when they were puppies, and I think it was so gradual that at first I didn’t realize it was odd.
    How can I get Keanu to be more calm and confident that I love him and everything is okay?
    It seems like he thinks someday I will just not love him and throw him out or something.
    Other details: I go to work mondays to saturdays, leave the house at 8:30am and come back at 7pm. I am extra affectionate to both dogs, but because Keanu is bigger than his sister I always feed him or pet him first. The girl poodle(Tuna) is hardly ever agitated, but almost always calm and happy and sometimes uninterested in me – never have I seen her staring at me unless maybe i called her name. Both dogs are extremely well behaved, never bark or chew, obedient, pretty timid when seeing other dogs, happy when seeing other humans(Keanu gets agitated seeing other women around my age…)

    • shibashake says

      With my dogs, there is usually something that triggers their anxiety. Therefore, the first step I take to help them relieve stress is to figure out what are the things that make them anxious.

      What is Keanu’s behavior like when he is with other people and you are not around? What is Keanu’s behavior like when he is home alone? Does he seem anxious then?

      As I understand it, dogs repeat behaviors that get them good results. Therefore, if we reward certain behaviors such as staring, licking, or following around, with affection or other rewards, then that may encourage a dog to keep repeating those behaviors. I usually ask my dog for a positive pre-trained behavior (e.g. Sit, Down, Look) before giving him a reward. In this way, I redirect the undesirable behavior and reinforce the desirable one.

      My dogs are also very sensitive to my energy. If I am stressed out or anxious, they will pick up on that and become stressed out themselves. I try to always be calm when interacting with them, I have a fixed routine, a consistent schedule, and I make them work for the things that they want most through positive behavior (Nothing is Life is Free program).

      More on how dogs learn.

  14. Bec says

    Hi is like some advice. We bought home our beautiful husky puppy 3 days ago. I know not long. And she is gorgeous :). She was displaying. Nervous behaviour towards my 5 year old daughter growing and Nipping at her. She seems to have calmed a bit my daughter is still a bit scared of her. Today we took her for her first set of jabs and her microchip. When we went in the room she instantly started whining and backing up. When the vet went to run the chip machine over her and she freaked out and tried to bite the vet. She hadn’t even touched her. The vet said she was very worried about her behaviour and asked me questions about the breeder. We met them a few times with the mom and dad and they all seemed fine I never saw any nervous behaviour in her. They did tell me she was a little shy since all the other pups left (she was the last to go). The vet even asked if I could give her back As I have two young children. I said we really didn’t want to and want to try and work with her. In the end we didn’t do the micro chip as our pup kept going to bite the vet. And we just quickly did the vac so she is started her protection. She seems ok at home and very calm when it’s me and my partner. I realise we’ve only had her a few days but I really don’t wan her to bite my kids cause she is scared and need to fix this ASAP. Help please

    • shibashake says

      I went through a similar experience with my Shiba Inu puppy.

      In cases of aggression where there are young children involved, I would get help from a good professional trainer.

      Note though that the dog training profession is not well regulated, so when I was looking for a trainer for Sephy, it was not always easy to find a good one who could give us accurate information about dog behavior, and is good with dogs. I found that it was very useful to read up on dog behavior on my own, so that I could better understand Sephy, as well as quickly filter out all the nonsense “trainers” we encountered.

      Sephy is also sensitive to the energy of the people around him. I make sure that I am always very calm when interacting with him. If I am fearful, nervous, over-excited, or frustrated, he will pick up on that energy, get more stressed himself, and act even more crazy.

      When he was young, I managed him very carefully. I used baby gates, leashes, and other management equipment as necessary. I set up a very fixed routine and a very consistent set of rules, including people interaction rules. I supervise all his interactions very closely.

      In the beginning, I only let him meet with calm people that I know will result in a successful greeting. I also coach people on how to meet him. Often, fearful dogs show aggression because they feel threatened and cornered, and think there are no other alternatives available to them. I make sure I do not put any of my dogs in this type of situation.

      In the meantime, I help teach Sephy to be calm around people and build his confidence by doing controlled desensitization exercises.

      I also did touch exercises and bite inhibition exercises with Sephy. I always start small and make things positive.

      I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs so that they learn that I (or people) are the source of good stuff, and that they need to work and follow rules for the resources that they want.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent. Therefore, in cases of aggression especially where there are young children around, it is best to get help from a good professional trainer.

  15. Paperlady says

    Hi, we have 8 yr old male Airedale. Very, very severe travel anxiety. 5 hr trip where he pants the entire road trip. Now also afraid of end cycle beep of dishwasher. Also thunderstorms. Pants and paces. Have tried dap collar, thundershirt, OTC calming aids, anxiety meds from vet and Prozac, crate and cage. Nothing works for our baby. Help!!

    • ryan says

      My dog exhibited all the symptoms you are describing. Through trial and error and an ongoing 6 month consult with UPENN Veterinary Behavior Clinic what works best for my dog is: daily prozac does to take the edge off my dog, consistent routine, regular exercise, acrating when I am not home, and sustained release valium on days of predicted thunderstorms, fireworks, etc. The valium I use is Clorazepate … can get it cheaper at the pharmacy if you print a coupon at

  16. Donna says

    I have a mixed dog that has anxiety problems that are getting worse. When we leave the house we have to leave through the basement so she goes into her cage, which we dont lock. But we will give her a bone then she is fine. When we go out the front door and give her a bone she will still bark and flip out. But I just go out through the basement and she is fine. My problem is when we have people over whether it is 1 0r 10 people she barks at me and jumps up on them and makes weird noises and wont settle down, and it is getting worse. I try to settle her down but nothing works so I lock her in her cage. She will bark but I dont know
    what else to do. What do you suggest?

  17. Linda says

    Hi we have a black labrador called Bonnie she is 8 years old having problem with noise anxiety she was fine till 2 years ago bonfire night and fireworks she shakes drips from the mouth walks from room to room with tail between her legs but after firework night she gets back to her normal self recently we’ve notice if your out with her and a bus lets off its gases or aloud car goes past she starts walking really low tail between the legs and now there are 2 bangs next to where we live off in the distance may be building work and she’s a absolute mess won’t go out for walks won’t have wee s when we are out just pulls to get back home it’s awful to see her like this we’ve tried ignoring it putting music on keeping the house calm nothing work think I’m going to have to take her to the vets for medication which I didn’t want to do but it mustn’t be good for her not going to the toilet cause she’s too scared to go outside this is a dog who would normally knock you on ya back for a walk any ideas much appreciated

    • shibashake says

      With my Husky Lara, sound desensitization exercises helped her with the loud noises from the garbage truck.

      During the entire retraining period though, I made sure not to expose Lara to any loud noises that would cause her to spook. The more she goes into panic mode, the more fearful she becomes and the more likely it may become a phobia. The more positive experiences she has, the more confidence she builds and the less fearful she becomes. With desensitization, I start small and slowly help Lara re-associate the previously scary stimulus (garbage truck sound) with positive events.

      I like desensitization because it targets the source of the anxiety, rather than just muting the symptoms.

  18. husky12 says

    I have a 5 month old Siberian Husky, I am having issues with her while I am gone in the crate. She seems to poop in her crate and then smother it all on the bottom. I talked to the vet and she suggested I block half the crate off so she only has enough room to turn around. I did that and came home yesterday to her destroying her crate again. I was always told Huskies will not use the bathroom where they stay, but she seems to cover her crate in poop. She is good about listening to me and minding. Sometimes I think she thinks she is the alpha dog though, what kinds of things do I do to prevent that? And discipline. I’ve been told to spank her, grab her snout and pinch, rub her snout in her pee or poop if she has an accident, get aggressive with her and other things. Spanking on her butt but not too hard, seems to sometimes work. (I don’t do the things above I just listed) I would just like advice on training her the proper way. Huskies have a mind of their own and I want to train her the right way. Any advice is appreciated!

    • shibashake says

      It *could* be separation anxiety. Does she only do this when she is alone? Is she fully potty trained otherwise? What is her routine like? When a dog is overly anxious or stressed, he may poop and pee as a result of that anxiety. In such cases, it is a distress response.

      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 a lot of useful information on separation anxiety.

      This is what I do to help my dog with his separation anxiety.
      More on where I go to get information on dog training and dog behavior.

  19. Christina says

    I have a 1 year old pit lab mix and she’s driving me crazy! I leave her alone and when I come home she chews on her dog bed and on furniture and also on my shoes and just other stuff n the house. I tried having her in a crate but she tries to escape and hurts herself so I decided to just not try the crate anymore. We leave her to roam free n my studio apartment. We also have a small Pekingese mix and she doesn’t do anything as far as chewing. Just our lab mix girl. Idk what else to try for her because I leave her with toys and a stuffed kong and she still chews Up stuff n my apartment. SomeOne told me to try giving her benedryl but I have not tried that

    • shibashake says

      What is her daily routine like? Does she only do this chewing behavior when she is alone? If so, it could be due to separation anxiety.

      I helped my dog get over his separation anxiety by slowly getting him used to alone time. I first start with very short periods of alone time (seconds), and keep repeating until I am sure he is comfortable with it. Then I *very slowly* build-up from there.

      The more success he had, the more confidence he built, and the more calm he became. The opposite is also true, so I make sure to always maximize successes and minimize bad episodes.

      More on how I help my dog deal with separation anxiety.
      More on separation anxiety from the ASPCA.

  20. Renee T. says

    We’ve had our German shepherd mix rescue since she was a puppy; she will be 11 years old in March, and has been the joy of our lives. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, she has started displaying signs we think are anxiety, and we aren’t sure how to proceed. Although she was never afraid of storms, in the last year she began trembling and panting during storms so much so that we purchased a thundershirt at the recommendation of our vet, with minimal improvement. We then noticed she would go up and down into the basement almost compulsively, recently staying in the dark in the basement for long periods of time. Now, she is climbing on furniture in a back room, which she has never ever done before, or she is hiding in a spare bathroom in a part of the house she was never allowed in formerly. She is panting and trembling almost constantly for no apparent reason, and we just don’t seem to know how to console her, or figure out what is wrong. She does seem to sleep at night, and seems relaxed when we awake in the morning, but before very long, she is panting and tembling again, and seems tormented. Do you think medication is needed or would help, or do you have other ideas? This all seems so sudden, and I am now starting to wonder if this is an inevitable part of her aging. Would sincerely appreciate any feedback you might be able to provide.

    • shibashake says

      In terms of thunder phobia, Patricia McConnell has some good information on that-

      The only other thing that I can think of is that there is some other physical issue that is causing her to feel pain or to feel more vulnerable and anxious. My Husky Shania acts in a similar way when she is not feeling well. She will suddenly want to go off to be by herself and hide somewhere safe. When she does that, I know that there is some physical issue. Pain can also cause trembling and panting.

      How is your dog’s hearing and eyesight? Is she eating normally? Does she seem to be in any pain? When was her last full physical?

    • JJLL says

      What you have described are exactly same symptoms as my dog. Lady came to my mom’s house one day from the desert. It was clear that someone had abandoned her because she still had on a dusty pink collar with the tags removed. My mom adopted her immediately and kept her for about two years before her she lost her house and partner to a fire. While in transition, my husband and I took Lady in and became so attached to her that she ultimately became a wonderful part of our family. We took her to the vet and found out that she is a German Shepherd/Lab mix and that the closest they can guess her age is “over ten”. She has been “over ten” for four years now. Due to her situation, she has always had some degree of separation anxiety. She also would get nervous during thunderstorms. However, during the last two weeks, her anxiety increased significantly. She started pacing around frequently. My husband and I are both teachers and were on break so we were rarely, if ever, away from the house at the same time. There are rarely thunderstorms in the middle of the winter here. Her anxiety seemed to come from somewhere we couldn’t identify, and it was constant. She has had a very hard time sleeping for the last couple of weeks. She gets into small spaces (corners) and shakes. She positions herself almost on top of me and just trembles. I took her to the vet earlier this week and she tried to find a source of pain that could be triggering the behavior. She couldn’t find any kind of issue that could be the cause of the increased anxiety. Lady does have arthritis, but she has been on pain medication for over a year now. The vet prescribed some valium and instructed me to change her diet slightly. She also administered a drug test and found that one of the kidney levels had jumped from the low normal range to the abnormal range (16 points) in the last year.
      For the last two days, I have been giving her valium and her regular pain medicine with her new food. It helps during the day to some degree, but as soon as the lights are out, she starts shaking and pacing again. Today, she jumped up onto the couch and placed her head in my lap. She has never tried to get on this couch before. Earlier in the day, she trapped herself in the bathroom when she was following my husband around everywhere and he left the house. She clearly tried to get out, but ended up shutting the door on herself instead. I speculate that she was in a panic once she woke up and couldn’t figure out where she was.
      After reading some of the articles and forums out there, I see that she is likely suffering from some kind of cognitive deficiency resulting from the loss/depletion of her senses and the early signs of kidney failure. As much as it pains me to say this, I realize that she may be suffering a great deal. I hate that she has to be drugged up on valium to have a decent quality of life. It breaks my heart. She is the sweetest dog I have ever had/encountered and I hate to see her going through this. We may be facing a tough decision in the next few days.
      I hope that your dog is OK and that the symptoms abate.

    • JJLL says

      Sorry, not drug test. Blood test.

      One last note: this also came on suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere.

    • Renee T. says

      Thank you both for the reply. We had noticed the beginnings of arthritis about a year ago, and our vet recommended we put her on a glucosamine regimen. Although I’m sure she experiences some level of discomfort from the arthritis, it hasn’t seemed to stop her from running outside or playing frisbee. She does seem to be experiencing some cognitive confusion, which may well be a result of her diminishing senses. She is better today, in terms of the panting and trembling…but she has still chosen to isolate herself in a corner bathroom, and is sleeping most of the day. But, she is calmer than is previous days. She does have a Vet appointment soon, so we will raise your suggestions then. Like with Lady, I just have been unprepared to seriously consider my life without her…but I would never want to subject her to misery, if it seems she has no quality of life. Again, thank you both for the reply.

    • Renee T says

      To update: our German Shepherd’s sudden onset anxiety did not improve, so we took her to the vet who said this is not an uncommon development in senior dogs, and it can develop seemingly from out of nowhere. The vet said it sounds like separation anxiety, which can be triggered even if there is no separation! In our situation, it definitely seems as if bells or buzzers or ringers are a trigger…even the microwave or sports on tv! The vet also said it sounds like our dog is developing signs of canine cognitive dysfunction. She has been placed on a low dosage of Prozac, with plenty of room to increase the dosage if we don’t notice any improvement. So far, behaviors have not improved, but they have not gotten worse either. I will update after she has been on the medication for a longer period of time.

    • shibashake says

      Thanks for giving us an update Renee. Let us know what happens with the Prozac.

      Big hugs to your sweet girl. My dogs also send their love and lots of Husky kisses.

    • carol says

      Hi Renee,
      I have a 14 year old shep mix and have been putting up with these behaviors for two years now. I know his senses of sight and hearing are diminishing, but not gone. He has a form of dementia, which is kinda a senile thing. He is not always in this state of mind, I have to constantly be with him, or his anxiety level will go off the wall with constant barking.
      He is still able to go to the parks for nice long walks and smells, and his behavior at the park is very normal. exercise is good for the dogs in his condition. I am his caregiverysical attributes are still strong, but his mental cognition has problems. I am the one suffering, not necessarily him. He really does not know what he is doing. I guess it is how much I can put up with. My dog has saved my life in the past. He was loyal to me, I am in turn trying to be loyal to him….When I start to see that he is in harms way, or his physical attributes begin to fail, I will put him down, but at this stage of the game it does not feel right to me. I am home all day, I am able to be with him. He is my buddy and he is old….There are days when he drives me crazy, and I want to put him down, but I think this test is on me…there is still quality of life in my Zack.

  21. Deb says

    My Shiba Inu is 22 months old and he has always been a good traveler. 3 months ago he became extremely anxious whem traveling in the car with me. He makes the yowling Shiba noises and paces and tries to chew my seatbelt from the back seat. He is calmer when we ride with a friend and I can be a passenger with him. The only thing that occurred in our travels last October that could have triggered this is 3 different 40 mile trips in the rain. He became increasingly anxious during each trip. Portions of the road were slanted so the rain beat up underneath the car. I’ve tried sitting in a parked car with him while giving him treats if he can remain calm whilevthe carvis stationary. It helped temporarily. Do you have any better tips on desensitizing? They are such a bright breed. Driving now seems to pose a threat to him.

    • shibashake says

      What was his response to sitting in a parked car? Was he able to stay calm? What was the next step after the parked car exercise? Is he afraid of the noise of rain? If so, sound desensitization exercises may also help.

      One thing that is very important with desensitization exercises is that during the retraining process, it is important not to expose our dog to large doses of the fear stimulus. The key with desensitization is to start small, and only very slowly increase the strength of the stimulus. In this way, our dog is able to stay calm, learn from the experience, and can slowly rebuild confidence.

      For example, with my dog I may start with
      - being close but outside a parked car,
      - being in the car with the door open,
      - being in the car with the door closed,
      - being in a very slow moving car with someone sitting with him,
      - very slowly increasing the duration,
      - very slowly increasing the speed,
      and so on.

      Successful experiences will help my dog learn to re-associate what was previously scary with positive events. Similarly, bad experiences will undermine his confidence and set back training. Therefore, I make sure to go slowly and only expose my dog to situations that I know he can handle.

  22. Karen says

    Hi, we’ve got a Jack Russell who was the best natured, most loving little dog then our now 7 month old daughter came home and our dog hasn’t truly adjusted and shows signs of being stressed and anxious and in last few months has started to loose hair on her nose and top of head which vet cannot explain or help with but I’m convinced it’s due to our daughter. If you have any advice on how to help our dog it would be greatly appreciated

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, large changes in the environment and routine can cause stress for dogs. My dogs also pick up on my energy and the energy of other people in the house. If I am stressed, frustrated, angry, or depressed, they get stressed as well.

      I don’t have any children, so I can only describe what helped with my dogs when I moved to a new house.

      1. Setting up a fixed routine and consistent house rules.
      My Shiba Inu, Sephy, really needs a fixed routine. If things keep changing, he gets very stressed. Therefore, I try to create as much certainty as I can for him.

      2. Quiet place to rest.
      I create a quiet place for him to rest away from noise or other stress triggers. I try to observe what things trigger anxiety in Sephy (e.g. certain noises) and manage those triggers so that he is not exposed to them. Meanwhile, I also do desensitization exercises to get him more comfortable around those triggers.

      3. Try to control my own energy.
      I try to control my own energy and stay very calm around Sephy. I don’t overly comfort him or anything, I just get on with business as usual, but manage his environment so as to reduce stress.

      4. More daily exercise and fun activities.
      Sephy likes exploring and going for walks. After we moved, I increased our daily walks and took him to fun but quiet places to explore. I also played fun games with him, and gave him other positive outlets for his stressful energy.

      Does your vet think it is from stress? In cases where my vet cannot help, I have often found that it can be helpful to see a specialist.

      Here are a couple of articles from the ASPCA on introducing a dog to a newborn baby-

  23. Peggy Thomas says

    I am trying to find a solution for my 11yr old female Husky, Blitzen’s night-time anxiety. This has been going on now for a few months. It’s as if she’s become nocturnal. Around 1a-3a every night she is wide awake and pacing, pawing at the bed, whining, almost hyper ventilating. We have a doggie door and she will go outside and whine the most pathetic sounding sad cry. I try to bring her into my room, but she paces and pants and can’t settle. I am becoming sleep deprived since I cannot sleep a whole night with this behavior. My vet suggested Sam E and Benedryl, both of which had the opposite effect and made her wired instead of calm. I am desperate for a solution for both of our sakes.

    • shibashake says

      Did anything else change when this behavior first started? Were there changes in routine, activities, noises from outside, or anything else? Are there any other changes in behavior? Is she eating, drinking, and playing normally? Did the vet give her a full physical examination? Sudden behavior changes can sometimes be from a physical issue.

      With my dogs, I always start with ruling out physical issues. After I have ruled out physical issues, I try to identify what in the environment or routine may be triggering this change. I try to supervise and observe my dog closely to see if there is any sound, or other changes that may be causing the anxiety.

      Once I understand the source of the anxiety, then I can better manage it, and help my dog deal with it through desensitization.

  24. Pug345 says

    Hi, I just got a 9 month old Puggle who I believe may have been mistreated before because she’s very easily alarmed by any sudden sounds even if she’s laying with me and the sound comes from me. It also takes a while before she willingly comes to anyone in the house. It also took a while for her to eat treats and she doesn’t play with toys very often. We got her a crate that she slept in for a week in my room without a problem. The crate has her bed on one side and a piece of fake grass on the other side and she never had any problems with the crate. However 2 days ago I overslept so she ended up being in the crate for 12 hours and peed on the side with the grass. I took her out when I woke up and she still pooped outside and acted normal that day. Since then when we put her in the crate to go to bed she barks and howls and moves around anxiously until someone’s in the room. I’ve tried comforting her and letting her out when she’s quiet and scolding her when she’s yelling but nothing seems to have changed. Help!

    • shibashake says

      Does she only get anxious when she is *alone* in her crate? If so, then it could be separation anxiety.
      What if she is alone but outside of her crate, does she get anxious then?

      Some things that I do to help my dog with separation anxiety-
      1. I set up a very fixed schedule and a consistent set of rules. A fixed schedule helps to establish consistency and certainty, which helps to reduce stress in my dog.
      2. I give my dog positive outlets for his anxious energy. I do walks, play structured games, and do positive obedience training sessions.
      3. I do desensitization exercises to very slowly get my dog comfortable with being alone.

      Here is more on separation anxiety and some of the things I did.
      Article on separation anxiety from the ASPCA.

    • Anonymous says

      Based on what you’ve said I do believe it’s separation anxiety because if I do the same thing and close her in a room without me she reacts the same way…but if a door is open in the room she will gladly be in the room without anyone around her for a while so I don’t really understand…also this dog has been through a few homes and we got her at 9 months untrained so I think it’s making it harder to do anything with her…she has yet to catch on to the potty training after a month and we take her out very frequently

    • Pug345 says

      I’m starting to lose hope after a month and I’m worried I’m not skilled enough to train her..I don’t think she even understands her name yet lol

    • shibashake says

      I also had a very difficult time with Sephy (my Shiba Inu), in the beginning. I was quite stressed out by his behavior, and it seemed like things were never going to get better. Ultimately, I just took things one day at a time, and tried to learn as much as I could about dog behavior, so that I could understand Sephy better.

      Things slowly started to get better, and now we are good friends. He is still a Shiba, so he will do his Shiba-moves, but he is a fun guy to be around and he makes things a lot better for everyone in the family. In fact, I started this website to write about my experiences with Sephy. :D

      Some articles on my difficult time with Sephy-

      Big hugs to your pack.

  25. MomoftheWildthings says

    I have a 5ish year old Boxer we rescued 3 years ago. He was horribly abused, was terrified of men (and still is a little bit, it took him 2 months to get used to my husband), malnourished and suffers extreme separation anxiety. We tried everything under the Sun to help calm him and keep him relaxed. In our trial and error period of a full year he destroyed our mud room 3 times and chewed through 4 heavy gauge wire kennels. We can not, EVER, leave him in our home without a family member being home. He is still anxious if I, his alpha, am not home, but he doesn’t cause harm to himself or others. Luckily I am home with him most days.
    He has to be kenneled if we have to leave and he can’t not join us.
    After many failed attempts at desensitizing him to the triggers of his anxiety we tried natural calming agents to help. None worked. His anxiety was to profound and the methods were ineffectual. We just could not calm him enough, when exposed to his triggers, for the agents or program to work. We had to put him on medication. For his own safety. He was causing great harm to himself in his terror to escape what he probably thought was another abandonment.

    While keeping with the desensitize program and very close monitory from his vet, Sully (Neuroti-Dog) takes Xanax and Clomicalm. He used to take Clomipramine but the expense went through the roof the last few months so we changed it. When he was first put on medications our hope was to use the meds to calm him enough for him to respond to the desensitizing. It worked. Until he found new triggers to cause him anxiety. No sooner do we desensitize him from one trigger and he finds another. I walk around my house with my car keys in hand, my coat and shoes on more often than not. I use his buzz words without action on my part other than to give him his favorite treat and we won’t even get into what I have to do when the dry cleaner bag comes out! I never stop using this program, if I lax even one day, he goes back to his original triggers of anxiety. Needless to say, Sully requires constant monitory for not only his medications but his anxiety through desensitization. Oh, BTW, he ate his Thundershirt. :-/
    So, I would say that our vote is: Desensitizing with a calm house partnered with a closely monitored medication plan is what works best for our dog. He is an amazing animal that deserves a peaceful Forever Home and he will have it with us until he crosses the Rainbow Bridge. I just wish HE knew that! :-)
    Thank you for the great article! I am always looking for more ways to help Sully live a peaceful life.

  26. Jennifer says


    We have a 7 year old female husky (that we got from the ASPCA at 6. Months) that had TPLO surgery on her right knee las august and her left knee this august. She did great with the incision and the surgery, but both times once her hair has grown back, she has licked all of the hair off of the outside (incision was on the inside) of her right knee and the front part of her right front leg ( a rectangular patch that was shaved for the Iv in her first surgery). We can’t get her to stop licking/ biting it (she does it when we are not looking and she thinks we can’t hear). We have tried everything we can think of, telling her no, anxiety pills, coneing her, those sprays that are supposed to taste bad, putting a cut sock/ baby legging over her front leg, and nothing works. She has always done her nails but I was told that was a breed thing not an anxiety issue, other than that she has never had an issue similar to this. We and her vet are out of ideas. She has never liked it raw , but it is hairless and we are afraid that if we can’t stop her it will get raw, right now we are having to cone her whenever we can’t watch her and I hate doing that. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    • shibashake says

      My Shiba Inu was like this after he got neutered. The only way I was able to keep him from licking the incision site, was to supervise him and cone him when I could not supervise, until there was no longer any skin irritation. I used the cone until I was 100% sure that everything was healed, so that he does not set things back with his licking. Licking (like scratching on a scab) may give him some temporary, very short term relief, but it quickly creates more irritation, which leads to more licking, and so on.

      There are softer cones which look more comfortable and less awkward, but after reading reviews at the time, I was worried that my Shiba would bite through or otherwise bypass the soft-cone in short order.

      Big hugs to your girl. Hope she feels better soon.

    • Anonymous says

      Thanks. But she is not licking where her incision was, she is just licking two other spots that were shaved for the operation, but there was never any scab or cut there.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Jennifer,

      Apologies for my not-to-the-point response.

      I think that the general issue is one of skin irritation. In my experience, it is usually the incision area that has the most irritation because of trauma to the skin, stitches, and more. However, as you have described, there can also be irritation in other parts, for example, in the areas with shaved hair.

      As I understand it, without the protection of fur, the exposed skin is more susceptible to small scrapes and scratches, dryness, hotspots, and more, that may cause irritation to the skin.

      After a big shedding season, my dogs lose a lot of fur especially in the lower leg regions, and during activity or play, they may irritate those “thin-furred” regions. As a result, they start licking, which causes more irritation, which results in more licking, and so on. In extreme cases, the behavior can be habit forming and lead to acral lick dermatitis. There are also other reasons for dog licking and itchiness.

      In cases of skin irritation, I prevent my dog from further inflaming the affected site through supervision and use of a cone if necessary. This will stop the condition from worsening. In addition, I try to identify the cause of the irritation in the first place.

      I think a vet is most equipped to help us pinpoint the issue and give us advice on how to deal with it. If my vet is unable to locate the problem, my next step would be to visit with a skin specialist.

  27. rosa says

    my dog has epilepsy, when he doesn’t have seizures he is very anxious. i would like to know if there is something that will help him relax. he is under vets medical prescription.

  28. jeep says

    I have a bernese mt dog that is terrified of flies, mosquitos, anything that flies and/or buzzes…….howo do I desensitize him?

  29. Marilyn says

    My husband and our dog have been very close since the day one. Bailey is now 8 years old. Ever since Bailey had a sudden, painful tummy ache while sitting on my husband’s lap, Bailey associates my husband with that painful experience and avoids him, won’t jump up on his lap or even walks way around him on his way to another room.

    How can we help Bailey to feel comfortable around my husband again?

    • shibashake says

      Desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises may help-

      I tweak things as necessary to suit my particular situation. I make sure to start small, go in very small steps, and to always keep the experience positive. They key is to teach my dog to re-associate the person with positive events and fun activities.

      What are Bailey’s favorite food and activities? If your husband is sitting and reading on the couch (not paying any attention to Bailey) and there is food around, will Bailey come over and eat the food?

      In the beginning, I make sure the other person *does not* initiate eye contact or talk. In this way, I keep things low key and non-stressful. The energy of the people around my dog is also very important. If I am anxious or worried, my dog will pick up on that and get anxious as well. I try to stay calm and positive, I let my dog set the pace, I keep sessions short but frequent, and I make the experience very rewarding.

    • Marilyn says

      Thank you for your reply. We took your advice and are keeping Bailey’s experiences with my husband very positive. Bailey always loved to share whatever my husband is eating, so he made a little Hansel and Gretel trail of sweet potato chips that led up to the sofa. This is working for now. We will continue to take things slowly and positive, letting Bailey set the pace within reason. Thanks again.

  30. Anonymous says

    I had our 5 year old black lab out for a walk. We were approximately 1/2 hour away from the house when it started to thunder. He was quite scared but there was nothing I could do to get home any faster than walking. I spoke to him in a calm voice and during the walk back to the house there were probably 3 or 4 more rumbles. When we got in the house he wasn’t shivering like he’d normally be with load noises but kept next to me. A couple of nights later we started out for our walk again. I didn’t think about the thunder on our previous walk and we weren’t half way when he stopped and wouldn’t go any further. We were following the same path as the evening of the thunder. I tried to coach him to continue but he wouldn’t budge. When I turned and started back the way we came, he started to jump up and down, tail wagging and visibly happy.

    A couple of evenings later, off we go for a walk. Same path but only 10 minutes into the walk a plane flew over head. It didn’t seem to be particularly loud but it was enough to frighten the dog again. He turned around and ran for home.

    This all happened about 6 weeks ago. Since then he won’t walk past our driveway with me. He’ll go with my husband, he’ll go with me and my husband but not me alone.

    I’ve walked our dog just about every night since we got him about 2 years ago and dearly miss it. I know he does as well because he’s still quite active and loved it when I said let’s go for a walk. He’s been through thunder storms before but he was always inside, he’s been in a camp hunting for 3-4 nights with gun shots sounding off causing him to shake and shiver but he always seemed to get over it.

    I have no idea what to do but sure miss walking him in the evenings. Do you have any suggestions on what we could try?

  31. lucyk says

    I have a one year old Cairn Terrier that we adopted from our local SPCA 6 months ago. He is in his only at night and for the first few months we had him there were no problems but recently he has started growling and snarling at us when he goes in the crate. So we started leaving the crate door open and just closing the gate to the room his crate is in but he will bark when we close the gate. We just had family stay with us over the weekend and while they were here he would single me out and bark hysterically at me and jump on me. His tail is wagging and I really don’t think he is trying to bite This morning I was unloading the dishwasher and he sneaks up on me and when I turned around he started the incessant barking again. If I walk away it usually stops. Any suggestions on what may be causing this and what I should do?

    • shibashake says

      It is difficult to identify the source of the behavior without knowing the dog, his past experiences, and his surrounding context.

      Does he have high priority toys (e.g. bully sticks, rawhides) in his crate? Does he growl when people come near his food or toys? What is his regular routine like? What type of training is he used to? How does he act towards new people? Is he friendly, or does he prefer not to meet? How is his behavior during walks?

      When there are large changes in a dog’s environment or routine, he may become fearful and uncertain. For example, when we moved, my Shiba got a bit stressed from all the changes. Having guests (unfamiliar people) over, can also cause stress and uncertainty.

      My Shiba is also very sensitive to the energy of the people around him. When he was young, I had a very difficult time with him, and it seemed that he would single me out for his bad behaviors. A big reason for this, was because of my own energy. I was frustrated with him, embarrassed by him, and also a bit afraid of him. He would pick up on these feelings, become stressed and fearful himself, and act even more crazy. This in turn made me feel even more frustrated and afraid, and it was not a good cycle.

      More on my difficult times with Sephy.

      To change my dog’s behavior, I needed to first identify the source of his behavior. Is he growling because he is guarding his stuff? or is it because he is afraid of people?, or is it because he is stressed from changes in his environment?, or is it something else. Context matters a lot when it comes to dog behavior.

      Here is more on how I deal with bad behavior with my dogs.

      During my difficult times with Sephy, I also got help from several professional trainers.

  32. Meag says

    I have a Maltese Yorkie who has been diagnosed with anxiety, multiple vets want to medicate him, however this isn’t the way id like to deal with the problem. He doesn’t seem to have any real triggers he is just constantly anxious, in fact we have to keep the blinds shut because seeing outside causes him to bark nonstop and be unable to relax. Bentley licks compulsively and will not eat unless he chases a ball first, he will cry at the bowl until a ball is thrown. Recently he has also become unwilling to go outside unless a person goes with him (our other dog always goes and waits for him but he won’t leave the step without a human) on walks (which we go on twice a day) he is completely fine and happy. I’m not sure how to fix his anxious tendancies. I’m worried he is not as happy as he could be. Any advice out there would be great.

    • shibashake says

      How long have you had him? How old is he? When did the anxious behavior start? Did anything unusual happen during that time? What type of training is he used to? What is his routine like? Is his routine pretty consistent or does it change a lot? Is he ok being in a room alone? Is he ever home alone? How does he act towards guests?

      To help my dog with his anxiety, I first try to identify the source of his anxiety. That is difficult to do without looking at the dog, his environment, routine, and other surrounding context. If I am not sure where the anxious behavior is coming from, I may visit with several good professional trainers. They can observe my dog, give me their opinion as to what is causing the anxiety, and why. Sometimes, I am too close to the problem, so it helps to get professional opinions from others.

      Once I have more information, I do more observations and tests to see which sources are most likely. Then I do desensitization exercises on each of the triggers, starting from the one that seems to cause the most stress.

      I also create as much certainty for my dog as possible by instituting a fixed routine and a consistent set of rules. I always stay calm while interacting with him, I provide him with a quiet and safe place he can go to whenever he wants, and I give him other outlets to release his anxious energy (walks, and other types of structured exercise).

  33. KeeptheFaith says

    Hi!! Awesome info on here.
    We got our dog a year ago (shes 2 now). When we first got her the only thing that made her anxious were thunderstorms. In the last couple months we’ve noticed she seems anxious/fearful more often, and we can’t put our finger on what may trigger this behaviour. She will no longer come into the den where we watch tv and her bed is. If we are in that room she goes upstairs. She won’t sleep in our bed, which she did every night before. She won’t go for a walk in the evening (sun still out). we can’t even get her to leave the front step in the evening.
    She seems to have withdrawn and we don’t want see it get worse.
    We would love to help her but we don’t know where to start. Any help would be appreciated.

    • shibashake says

      Large changes in behavior like that could sometimes be due to physical discomfort. Dogs usually try to hide their pain or vulnerabilities (some more than others), so sometimes it can be difficult to tell. Is she eating and drinking normally? Is her poop and pee normal? Does her mouth smell ok? Does she seem a lot less energetic? When was her last vet check-up?

      When my Husky Shania is not feeling well, she usually tries to go hide and does not want to be around people. Usually, she is a very affectionate and happy dog, so when she goes off to be by herself and avoids people, I know something is wrong somewhere. After I rule out physical issues, then I look at possible behavioral triggers.

      For example, what did she do during thunderstorms? What is her usual routine like? What type of training is she used to? Previously, did she enjoy being outside? Did she enjoy being with people and other dogs? Did something unusual happen in the last few months? Were there changes in schedule? Unexpected visitors? Unusual noises? Did anything different occur during her walks?

    • KeeptheFaith says

      She was at the vet last in February when we discovered she had struvite crystals (after a couple leaking accidents). We have changed her diet to prevent them from coming again. And went for a follow up to ensure the crystals were all gone. They are all cleared up now. She is eating and drinking normally and has normal pee and poop. I don’t notice her mouth smelling any different than before.
      In the last 6 months I would say she has “calmed down”, but we feel it’s due to her getting more used to us and her new home (she was a stray and had a couple foster homes before we got her). She still has lots of energy when we go for walks and to the park. She likes to be in the backyard (even in the evenings) and goes for a walk just fine (in the mornings only). It seems to be she only likes going for walks in the morning, and we used to go 3 times a day (morning, afternoon and evening). The only thing I can think of that would have frightened her on a walk is a few times storms have rolled in (usually a thunderstorm). When there is a thunderstorm she gets anxious, paces, pants and usually hides in the bathroom where she seems to calm down after a while. She loves the dog park and plays well with all the dogs she comes into contact with, and LOVES people. We’re really good about keeping her schedule the same, eats at the same times everyday, walks at the same time ect. We live in a new neighbourhood so there are trucks (all kinds) driving around all day. That would be the only noises I could think of.
      We work Monday to Friday so durning the week my husband gets up and feeds her before he goes to work, then an hour later I take her for an hour walk and when we get back from our walk I go to work and she stays home for the day. When I get home from work we go for another hour walk or to the park (lately she won’t go for these walks but will go to the park if we drive there and she’s fine at the park). Then she has supper and in the evening another walk (again, lately she hasn’t been going for these walks, we have to drive her to a place and she only wants to go to the bathroom, no playing). We’ve been trying to get her to go to the bathroom in the backyard since she seems comfortable there, but we just got it done a few weeks ago so she’s still getting used to it.
      We use positive reinforcement training and incorporate it in everything we do with her (walks, park, in the house, in the backyard ect).
      Great point on changes perhaps being physical discomfort/pain. Her yearly check up is in a couple weeks so I will be mentioning these points to the vet. Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      It is very interesting that she still loves going to the park, but has become anxious of the surrounding neighborhood.

      Is she calm while inside the car?

      When she goes to the car, does she go through the same door as when she goes on walks, or is it a different door?

      If you drive just a few blocks away and stop, does she get anxious in the car? does she get anxious about coming out of the car?

      The only thing I can think of that would have frightened her on a walk is a few times storms have rolled in (usually a thunderstorm).

      Did she ever experience a thunderstorm at the park?

      If you play a recording of a thunderstorm (start on very low volume) does she become anxious?

      Is she more anxious when the television is on?

      My dogs are not afraid of thunderstorms, but both Shania and Lara used to be very afraid of the garbage truck. Sound desensitization exercises, was helpful in terms of confidence building, and they also learned better ways to cope with their fear.

    • KeeptheFaith says

      She is calm in the car, and loves going in the car. Sometimes when we drive only a few blocks she will jump out but will not want to walk anywhere or leave the side of the car (in the evenings). And sometimes she won’t leave the car at all. But, if we go to the park in the evening she’s totally fine and will jump out and is ready to play at the park. Now we’ve been taking her to the park in the evenings. At the dog park we’ve been taking her to she has never experienced a thunderstorm.
      Great questions, I’m now putting some things together.
      To go to the car we go out the back door, and to go for walks we usually leave out the front. We have tried taking her for walks out the back door, but no success.
      She doesn’t seem to be bothered by the tv being on.
      Desensitization exercises are something new to us (just learnt about them by reading your articles). I have ordered a thunderstorm noise cd so I will be working on that and using the tips you have given.
      Will the sound desensitization exercises help with getting her out for evening walks? What other desensitization exercises could I use? I know she is anxious with thunder storms but I’m not really sure what triggers her to be afraid of going for a walk, even if no storm is around or coming. Or why she won’t come in the den in the evenings or come on the couch or sleep with us. All I know is there’s something about the evenings for her.

    • shibashake says

      Thunderstorms can be difficult for dogs to understand, because they come out of nowhere, and for no reason at all. They are loud, scary, and a dog does not know what he can do to make the bad scary event stop or go away.

      My *guess* is that she has associated thunderstorms with time of day and location (e.g. den & neighborhood). When the previous thunderstorms occurred, was it usually in the evenings? When they occurred, was she either outside walking or in the den?

      However, this is only a guess based on our online discussion. There could be other factors (environmental or otherwise), that I am not aware of. For a more accurate evaluation of the behavior, it may be best to consult with a good professional trainer or behaviorist. A good trainer will want to meet with the dog, read her body language, and observe the surrounding context.

      Whether sound desensitization will help or not will depend a lot on the cause of the behavior, which is usually the first thing that I try to pin-point with my dogs. I try to observe them closely, and identify differences in the surrounding context for when they are anxious and when they are not. I try to be very detailed about this, because sometimes, even small things can be significant.

      Once I figure out the most likely trigger, I do desensitization exercises to help my dog build confidence and to teach her new ways to cope with her stress. At the same time, I also try to manage her environment, so that she does not go through more panic attacks. For example, with the garbage truck, I just changed our schedule so that we do not accidentally encounter a garbage truck when we are outside and far from home. Then, when my dog is ready (after the taped sound desensitization exercises), I expose her to the truck slowly and in a controlled way – first when we are inside the house, by the door, in the front-yard and so on.

      Managing the environment is more of a challenge with thunderstorms because we have no control over where and when they come. Also, I have not gone through thunderstorm desensitization with my dogs, so I do not have any first-hand experience.

      One possibility that sounds interesting is the “safe area” idea. If the forecast predicts thunderstorm, then we can try keeping our dog in a low-stimulus (no windows/few windows), sound proof area, before the storm begins and *before* our dog starts to panic or becomes overly anxious. We can try masking out the sounds from outside with calming music, or a calm t.v. channel. At the same time, we distract our dog by giving him something interesting to do that he loves, for example playing a game, chewing on his favorite chews, playing with his favorite interactive food toy, etc.

      This article from Patricia McConnell has a good list of techniques for dealing with thunderstorms-

      More articles from McConnell on this topic-

  34. Colleen says

    Hi! It’s been a while. Hope all your pups are doing wonderful! Looking adorable as always. My Shiba, Reptar, (now 4 years old) has recently developed a fear of thunder. He used to not be bothered by it and would sleep right through storms. Now he tries to bury himself in me, as if he cannot get close enough to me. Of course the excessive panting and shaking occurs simultaneously. I eventually put him in his crate and cover it with a blanket and he calms down and sleeps but will not go in there to be safe on his own in the middle of the night when this happens. Since this fear has developed, the thunderstorms in my area have only occurred in the dead of the night…2am, 3am, 4am….which makes desensitization and conditioning very difficult. If it were to happen in the afternoon or evening I could easily work with Reptar to teach him to be OK with it again. Nothing I do seems to calm him down though. Especially because I am also not thinking with a clear head at 3am. Does Sephy have a fear of thunder? How do you help her or do things like the thundershirt actually work? I feel like it would just cause more anxiety for a Shiba.

    • Colleen says

      Oh – I have also tried to reproduce the thunder and lightning storm sounds with different sound machines but Reptar has no reaction to those noises. He carries on as if they are just regular background noise.

    • shibashake says

      Hmmm, how loudly were you playing the sounds?

      When I was doing coyote sound desensitization exercises with Lara, she would ignore the low volume stuff. Therefore, I very slowly increased the volume a little, observe, and repeat. At some point, I noticed a change in reaction, so I dialed back and used that as a starting point.

      I also tried several different coyote recordings. Some of them sound scarier than others.

      He used to not be bothered by it and would sleep right through storms. Now he tries to bury himself in me

      When he first showed this behavior, did you notice anything different? Was it a particularly bad storm? Is it a particular sound that he seems most anxious about – sometimes it could be the sound of water hitting the roof or the tree branches hitting the windows, and not the thunder itself.

      Another possibility is to record one of the thunderstorms at your house, and then use that for desensitization.

      Nothing I do seems to calm him down though.

      Yeah, in the midst of a thunderstorm it is often difficult to calm a dog down because we cannot control the volume or ferocity of the storm. This is why a recording is so useful. I can start at a level of volume that is not too loud, where my dog is still able to stay in control and learn.

      Does Sephy have a fear of thunder?

      Sephy isn’t very fearful of thunder or other loud noises. Both my Huskies were very afraid of the garbage truck, and Lara got anxious with coyote singing and the sound of skateboards. I think I probably get the most anxious of thunderstorms out of everyone in the family. :D

      How do you help her or do things like the thundershirt actually work? I feel like it would just cause more anxiety for a Shiba.

      I am not sure about the Thundershirt. I don’t think it would work well with Sephy because he really hates any kind of restraint, and does not like any kind of pressure on his body. He does not even like wearing a bandanna, so I think he would get even more crazy with something like the Thundershirt.

      Also, I have not been able to find any truly convincing studies on the Thundershirt. The only ones I could find were sponsored by the Thundershirt company. This one looks somewhat interesting and talks about a hide-box and measuring cortisol levels and heart rate, but I was not able to find the actual Journal publication that they alluded to in the article.

      This WSJ article talks about another pressure wrap study, on the StormDefender, which showed -

      The difference between the metal-lined and placebo capes wasn’t statistically significant given the small number of dogs in the study—meaning in scientific terms that no benefit was proven.

      Dog garments will likely be helpful sometimes, depending on the individual dog, Dr. Grandin says.

      “It’s not going to be totally magic. We should not overstate the case,” she says. The effect of the garments likely wears off after a little while, so they will probably work best if removed and re-applied, she adds.

  35. Michelle says

    I have a 4 year old Yorkie that has been crate trained since she was a puppy. We only crate her when we are at work. If we leave for a few hours to go eat or to the store we let her run the house. We have done this since the beginning. My routine every morning was to take her outside for her potty break before I went to work. We would get back to the front porch and I would let her off the lease and she would run and get in her crate with no problem. However, our house was broke into a year ago and she was of course in her crate in the living room when this happened. After this happened she would shake and not want to go in her crate, she would run to the bedroom and sit on the bed and shake. I had to start picking her put and putting her in there when we got to the porch. I tried a new approach, as soon as I get up I started taking her for walks in the morning. After our walk I come back and get ready for work then take her outside one last time before I leave. This helped as she did stopped shaking however I still have to pick her up and put her in the crate. I thought to myself I could deal with that as long as she was not shaking. We went to my in-laws condo on vacation in July and we do not crate her at all while we are there. When we came back she had stress colitis. Now I am back to her shaking again since we came back from vacation. Sometimes she pees and sometimes she does not. I am not sure what to do or how to handle this issue. I hope that you might have some suggestions for me.

    • shibashake says

      We went to my in-laws condo on vacation in July and we do not crate her at all while we are there. When we came back she had stress colitis.

      How long was she alone in the house during this time?

      It sounds like she developed separation anxiety (fear of being alone) after the house break-in. Being in the crate will make the anxiety worse because if someone breaks in again, she cannot run away or hide. That is a big thing for both dogs and people – not being able to run away and hide when there is a big threat close by.

      Here are some articles on separation anxiety-
      1. Separation Anxiety in Dogs from UC Davis.
      2. ASPCA.
      3. Humane Society of the United States.
      4. What I do to help my dogs with separation anxiety.

    • Michelle says

      She is at my in-laws condo no more than 2 – 4 hrs. at the most maybe 5. This would be while we go to the beach or go eat etc. We are usually back and forth throughout the day checking on her.

      I will check out the articles.


  36. Peggy says

    Thank you for this thoughtful article.

    Our 4yo female Golden (Riley) has suddenly developed anxiety which does not seem to be related to *any*thing identifiable. At first we thought it was weather related – not a storm or thunder or lightening – but anticipating a change in weather. Mostly just rain.

    We hike in the woods every day, off lead, for over an hour. Now it seems, every day when we get back home she is panting, pacing and can’t settle down – wanting to crawl in our laps. It’s happened daily after our walks for the past week or two. And today it started before our walk.

    We consulted the vet, tried benadryl (no effect) and now have a script for a benzo which we’re trying as I write this.

    We also have an 11mo old male Golden (Otis) who we’ve had for about 7 months. He is very calm and laid back and he and Riley generally get along fine.

    Desensitization isn’t an options since there is no contributing event. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    • shibashake says

      Based on what you describe, it sounds like the anxiety may be related to something that happened during the walks.

      One thing that I try with my dog is to walk him on-leash in a different but quiet area (e.g. around a quiet part of the neighborhood). Initially, I may just walk him in the front yard or close to the house, so that we can start to have successful walks again. I make sure to reward my dog well for staying calm, and I supervise him very well to make sure that the walk is a very positive experience.

      If necessary, I may drive him to a different location that is comfortable, safe, and quiet.

      Walking him on-leash allows me to observe him closely. In this way, I can see exactly when he starts to become anxious, and what is the surrounding context during this time. The different area helps me to determine if the anxiety is related to location (e.g. some sound, event, or animal encounter, that may have occurred in the previous location).

  37. Crystal says

    I’ve noticed that lately my almost two year husky is showing her teeth and growling at my two year old daughter a lot. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix this? I’ve had out a positive reinforcement trainer and have seen no results, help please.

    • shibashake says

      There are many types of aggression and dog behavior is also very context dependent. To address an aggression issue, I first try to identify the type of aggression.

      I also carefully observe my dog and the surrounding context, for example, is he in pain, is he afraid or over-excited, what was my dog doing before the behavior, what were the other people doing around him doing, are there toys or food around that he is trying to protect, and more.

      The dog’s temperament, past experiences, training experiences, routine, exercise and activity, will also affect his behavior.

      Here is a short but useful article from UCDavis on dog aggression-

      Here is an article from the ASPCA on the different types of dog aggression-

      Did the trainer say what was triggering the aggressive behavior? What type of retraining did he/she suggest?

  38. Patti Copeland says

    I have a 3 year old German Shepherd rescue that was abused/neglected. She was tied outside prior to her rescue. She spent time in a wonderful foster home before I adopted her. She is a fantastic companion – loving, intelligent, and very good with people and all other animals. Unfortunately, she has terrible anxiety – loud noises (thunder, fireworks, etc.) will send all 80 lbs. crawling under a bed shaking. She gets constant bouts of diarrhea = the most recent one lasted for six days (concidentally the length of a set of storms and the Fourth of July holiday). I took her to the vet and she was given antibiotics and meds to calm her stomach. I also got the herb – Composure. She’s finished her meds a week ago. I took her to my son’s last night to play with his puppy – she had been there the night before with just us – however, last night there were several other people there. This morning she started with the diarrhea again. She eats Blue (which is supposed to be a good food), doesn’t get table food, and only get’s Dentasticks as treats. She only goes outside with me (she’s afraid to go out alone) so she doesn’t get in to garbage. Can anyone give me any ideas as to what I might be dealing with?

    • shibashake says

      With noise anxiety, I do desensitization exercises with my dog. Desensitization helps my dog build confidence, helps her to stay calm, and slowly teaches her to reassociate the negative stimulus with positive experiences.

      As for the diarrhea, does it only occur after she has an anxiety attack? Over-excitement may sometimes also cause an upset tummy. How is her stool quality during regular times when she is calm and relaxed? If it is purely a symptom of the anxiety, then dealing with the root of the anxiety will help to alleviate the symptoms.

      Otherwise, there could be a food allergy or something else, and the anxiety merely exacerbates the condition. When my dog gets diarrhea, I usually switch to a bland diet. I use boiled/microwave chicken and white rice only, no treats, no extras. That helps to settle their tummy. For dogs that are allergic to poultry, we will need to use a different meat source. Once my dog is on a steady state, I very slowly reintroduce back her normal food, one at a time, to try and locate the source of the food allergy (if any).

      What Blue formula are you currently using? How many Dentastixs does she get per day? The teeth cleaning treats usually have wheat, which some dogs may be allergic to.

      What did her vet say? Did the vet say that the anxiety was the primary cause of the diarrhea?

  39. Gawler Vets says

    This is a great article that discusses dog anxiety in depth! Dogs can be afraid of a lot of things, including the vacuum cleaner, the food blender, car sounds and desensitizing them can be the best method.

  40. Sallie Kirkpatrick says

    I have printed out much of what has been posted so can read it thoroughly. My Shiba, Keeta, suffers from anxiety. She is afraid of noises, Even if we acquaint her with it, it can come back to her and she sits and shakes. I have used the DAP collar, and my homeoapathy vet’s tranquility drops. I can understand thunder and lightening and shooting, but I don’t know what to do when she continues the fear and won’t let go of the anxiety when sounds and actions are gone for a long time. Also, after 5 years, she now shakes when we bathe her. Oh yes, we just completed a month long session with an ear infection; she would tuck her tail and shake every morning anticipating the treatment. We discovered she was gluten intolerant and she hasn’t had the ear infection in 4 years, but she got one. As I said I haven’t read everyth8ig thoroughly but would appreciate any comments.

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, Sephy is also particular about being handled. What has worked well with him are desensitization exercises.
      1. I start with a very weakened version of the scary stimulus. I make sure I weaken it enough so that Sephy is comfortable and relaxed to begin with. The key with desensitization exercises is that we want our dog to associate the “bad stimulus” with positive events so that he slowly learns to tolerate it.
      2. Then, in the presence of the weak stimulus, I get Sephy to do very simple commands and reward him very well for it. This teaches him what behaviors to use when he is stressed, gets him focused on me, and distracts him from the environment.
      3. I always start small and go very slowly so that Sephy does not show any fear reaction, learns to relax in the presence of the scary stimulus, and learns to trust me to protect him.

      I also make sure that I am very calm and positive during such sessions. Sephy is very sensitive to my energy, and if I am worried, stressed, or frustrated, he will pick up on that and get even more stressed himself.

      Here is more on desensitization and counter conditioning.

      With Sephy, it was also helpful to get help from a professional trainer. Dog behavior is very context dependent, so it was good to have someone observe Sephy, get to know his temperament, and help us come up with a plan for retraining.

  41. Susan Riordan says

    I have a Brussels Griffon and he has the same symptoms as I read in your post. I have no idea how to help him,when I leave he goes crazy barking and trying to get out and then when I come home is is sweating so bad…..we hate to invite friends over because you would think he’s going to rip their leg off but he wouldn’t bit anyone. So I was hoping for some advise from you that might help my Brady

  42. Amy says

    i have a 4 year old dachshound. i think she has anxiety. if she’s in my room with the door is closed.she does this scratching at the carpet. and tries to dig a hole into the floor. and she’s doing this whinning thing too. i live with my mother and she has 2 cats. sometimes they play, but at night time she sneaks out of the room to rip open a trash bag and starts fights with the cats. and i don’t usually have a ride to take her to the vets. is there anything i can do. before i go completely nuts with her.

  43. Clive Bonello says

    I have a problem with my 6 month german shepard.She is afraid to go out for a walk that I will have to drag her out and then she will be fine.Then all a sudden it looks like she realise that she is outdoors and the story begins!!!She will start pulling on the leash her tail tucked between her legs and she will not respond to any command or treat not even her favourites.The only thing she will want is getting back home and then she will be fine!!What do you think is the problem and hpw should I tackle it?THANK YOU.

    • shibashake says

      When my Husky puppy was young, she would sometimes get anxious about new things or loud sounds. For example, Shania was afraid of the garbage truck, and Lara would get anxious about people who are on bicycles or skateboards.

      When I start to leash train my Husky puppy, I first do it in a safe environment, e.g. inside the house. In this way, she can slowly get used to the collar, the feel and weight of the leash, and me holding the leash. I make sure to desensitize her to the collar and leash, and I make sure that our leash training sessions are positive and very rewarding – with fun games, movement, and her favorite treats.

      When my puppy is comfortable with leash training inside the house, then we do leash training exercises in the backyard. It is quiet in the backyard and low stimulus, so it is a good transition step.

      After we have conquered the backyard, I take her on short but more frequent walks that are close to home. I live in a quiet neighborhood, so it works out well. I make sure to always stay calm and to always make our outings positive. I play Find-It and other games with my puppy so that she gets engaged with me, and learns to associate walks with rewards and fun.

      Once she is comfortable with that, I very slowly increase the environmental challenge. I also do additional desensitization exercises for loud scary sounds (e.g. garbage truck) or other things that are especially scary to her.

      In general, I try to set my puppy up for success by controlling the environment so that she can handle it, without getting overcome by fear. We always start small, and go in very small steps. The more successful walks we have, the more confident she becomes, and the next day, we can do a bit more.

  44. Cindy says

    Question— We have a 10 year old yellow lab. He has spent most of his life as an outside kennel dog with a nice warm house. In the winter he will be kept in the heated garage and on occasion come in the house. Then in the spring he will move back out. This past year he started crying by the front door and one night got very upset and started chewing on the front door wanting to come in. Now in the nice weather he no longer wants to be out in the kennel very long, ESP near evening. He will chew through the wire to get out. What is going on with him?

    • shibashake says

      Did something out of the ordinary happen when his behavior changed? Did his routine change, or did the family routine change? Previously, has he always been calm while alone in his kennel? What is his routine like?

      It could also be a physical health issue – older dogs may need to do business more often, or may have joint pain. Has he been to the vet recently? How is his health?

  45. lizardlover2012 says

    someone can you please help i have a 4 yr old German Shepard pitbull mix that is terrifed of people.mostly men.but he wont go on walks and always stays inside.he needs to exercise.we cant take him anywhere.i feel horible cause he wants to go but once he is outside he gets scared and runs to the house.

    • shibashake says

      Hmmm, when did this behavior start? How long has it been going on? Does he do well with men who are part of the family?

      For anxiety and fear issues, desensitization and counter conditioning techniques have worked well for my dogs.

      It also helped for me to visit with some professional trainers. They were able to observe my Shiba Inu, read his body language, and identify the exact triggers that caused him stress. We were then able to come up with a good plan to desensitize him to those triggers, and teach him alternate behaviors for dealing with his stress.

  46. Dubuquedogtrainer says

    Very thorough and well written hub. I would like to direct you to the Anxiety Wrap. It is the original patented pressure wrap designed for dogs – and cats – by Susan Sharpe, a T-touch practitioner and certified professional dog trainer. I believe the Anxiety Wrap is a superior product and recommend it in my own practice with clients who consult me about their anxious and fearful dogs. In a recent study completed at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, the Anxiety Wrap was found to be 89% effective in study participants – dogs with Thunderstorm phobia. I have used it on dogs with separation anxiety and generalized anxiety, including my own dog and have found it to provide consistently effective results. Check it out – I think you’ll be quite impressed too, and thanks for writing such a detailed, well thought out hub!

    • shibashake says

      Thanks for the information. Can you please point me to the Tuft’s study?
      All I found was this article, which is interesting but non-conclusive-
      In the book “Inside of a Dog” by Alexandra Horowitz she also suggests that rain-coats and other similar pressure wraps may simulate pressure of a dominant animal on our dog’s body, and in this way cause them to be more subdued. I.e.,
      “the coat produces the discomfiting feeling that someone higher ranking than you is nearby”
      ~~[Inside of a Dog]
      What do you think of this view?

    • Dubuquedogtrainer says

      Hmm…I read that book and do not remember that comment,Shibashake. I don’t know if the study has been published yet, but Susan Sharpe would know: I will ask her next time I talk to her. See my hub about whether eye contact is good or bad. I wrote that in response to someone’s question and the responses he received about eye contact with regard to dominance. This idea has been so misunderstood and damaging to dog training. No, I do not believe that pressure on the body simulates pressure caused by a “dominant” animal. I have never seen wolves or dogs embrace each other and cause this kind of pressure. The Anxiety Wrap works by applying maintained pressure and pressure to acupressure points. I am going to be writing a hub about this. It has nothing to do with dominance.

    • shibashake says

      Heh, yeah I understand that the “dominance concept” has been misunderstood, and overly applied. However, Horowitz is not one of those “dominance trainers”. She is closer to those that try to understand dog behavior from a scientific point of view, which is why I mention her.
      Also, she was talking about raincoats, which reminded me of these pressure wraps which is why I bring it up.
      I do notice that my dog gets subdued when he has a muzzle on, which is another thing that Horowitz mentions. I am not sure I agree with her that it is a dominance based source, but I found her view to be interesting.

    • shibashake says

      Add – My Shiba Inu also really dislikes wearing any type of clothing. I wonder if the cause may be related to Horowitz’s conjecture.
      Anyway, just thinking out loud. :D

    • Dubuquedogtrainer says

      Interesting that she mentions “coats. The Thundershirt resembles more of a coat than a wrap, whereas the Anxiety Wrap is more just that, a wrap which applies more maintained pressure and works on acupressure points. Did you know that Animals Plus (makers of the Anxiety Wrap) also makes a device called the Face Wrap that consists of an elastic strap that provides gentle pressure over the muzzle and behind the neck? I have found this product to work similarly to a head halter in calming dogs as well. I have applied this device to dogs with anxiety-related barking and seen remarkable results that were pretty much immediate. The dogs calmed down and focused right away. Simple but awesome product!

    • Deb says

      Wondered if the dogs try to remove the calming cap. What keeps it in place if they are inclined to try and dig it off with their feet?

  47. Paulart says

    Great stuff. I am really impressed by your writing and the topic you choose regarding dog anxiety problems. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  48. Chasing Riley says

    Your hub is so informative. We had a dog for 17 years, 13 of which were filled with major separation & noise anxiety. It’s a tough situation to deal with because she would do anything she could to get out of the house/yard if we left her including digging, jumping fences, etc… Everything we tried, including bringing her with us, didn’t work because she would be so stressed. The only thing we found to help her was an herbal remedy called Aconitum Napellus. We bought it at Whole Foods and it made a significant difference. She’s in heaven now after a long life but the thunder jacket you wrote about looks like something we would have tried.

  49. lundmusik says

    i love your dog hubs,,, and i love the “eye makeup” for the young siberian,, we had a female sibe (who lost her makeup after a year) and she was so loving to everyone except neighbors pet rabbits and our pupplies. she ran away so often (even over 7 foot fences) that we had to build a kennel..also, she ripped up our young female newfie until the newfie got big enough and took her down,, she was a great dog tho

    • shibashake says

      Yeah Sibes really love people. My two Sibe girls think that all the people around them exist solely to give them scratches and tummy rubs. :D
      I also love the look of Newfies. I was in a puppy class once with a Newfie. It was fun to watch him playing with my little Shiba Inu.

    • shibashake says

      Hey Gypsy Willow! Good to see you.
      How goes it? Haven’t seen you in a while and I am glad that you are still active on HP. :)

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