Dealing with an Anxious Dog


Tilly (left) with Bess

Tilly is a barker.  She gets anxious whenever she is the vicinity of another dog.  I’m nervous as well, and I know she probably picks up on my nerves.  It seems like we are in a catch-22 situation where I’m nervous that Tilly barks.  And Tilly barks because I’m nervous.

I think the nervousness at seeing other dogs stems from her having Bess by her side for a large proportion of her life.  She used to walk squashed next to her flank touching flank, which must make walking on her own slightly difficult.  The nervousness on my part stems from an incident where a loose dog in our neighbourhood attacked Bess.  I tried to break it up, not thinking of getting attacked myself.  This is why I think I tense up when Tilly approaches other dogs, as I’m not sure how the dog we walk past is going to behave.

So over the last few months I’ve been trying to get Tilly used to other dogs again.  My dad’s puppy, Bella, has been round our house a few times and Tilly has been fine with her.  Of course that is her turf and she doesn’t feel threatened.  It is on the walks that she is anxious.

I decided to show Tilly that these dogs aren’t something to be worried about.  It started off with an elderly golden retriever that we were about to walk past on our leisurely stroll through the park.  The dog halted and refused to go any further until Tilly walked past.


Tilly in the park where she met her new friend, the Golden Retriever

Leaving my partner to deal with Tilly, I stroked the golden retriever to try to show my dog that he was nothing to be scared of.  He loved the attention, and as Tilly continued walking towards him, she came over and sniffed his mouth before turning to his backside and greeting him.  Then what proceeded was a lovely sight that I wish I had captured on camera.  Both dogs were nose to bum saying hello, and Tilly’s tail was wagging.  She was happy, and there was no sense of nervousness at all.

I have done this twice since, and yesterday Tilly became friends with a three-year-old Border terrier named Chrissie.  Her owner gave Tilly all the attention she seemed to crave and the two dogs were nose to tail with Tilly’s posterior wagging with glee.

My aim is to do this with every dog that I walk past.  I know that sounds like a difficult task, and I know sometimes other walkers are in a world of their own, but just by spending a bit of time introducing Tilly to these other dogs is allowing her to gain more confidence.

What have you done to get your dog used to others?  Let me know below.


You Can Teach A Dog New Tricks

They say you can’t teach a dog new tricks.  They don’t know my dog.


Feeding time used to be a battle for control where she would attempt to swipe in and eat parts of her dinner before it was fully put in her bowl.  You’d turn your back for a second to get the tinned meat out of the fridge, and she would see that window of opportunity as a chance to gobble as much food as possible.  She’d guzzle down the two thirds of the ingredients of her dinner worried that it would be taken away from her.  After all dogs are scavengers by nature, and there doesn’t come a scavenger greedier than her.


Therefore, we decided to teach her to be patient and eat all of her tea together. Over the course of the next few weeks, we spent time reiterating to her that she needed to sit near the cupboard (where we store her food and treats) and wait for the three parts of her dinner to be placed in the bowl.  Each time she inched over or tried to eat from the bowl, we would ask her politely but firmly to sit back near her cupboard.  If she didn’t listen, we’d put down the knife and walk away from it.  Sometimes this even resulted in going out of the room on occasion.


Once the food was in the bowl, and she was waiting near the cupboard, only then would we tell her, “Good girl,” and allow her to eat her dinner.  To her, food is the most important thing so making her wait patiently definitely seemed to make a difference.  This consistency with feeding gave her the message that now, months after we have taught her this, she goes and sits by the cupboard on her own.  She does whinge and she does do a lovely dancing shuffle as she tries to inch as close to the cupboard as caninely possible.    She still gets impatient and moans when she doesn’t get her own way, but we’ve proved those naysayers wrong.


It just goes to show what a dog will do for food.


What has your dog been known to do for food?

“I can’t get to it, Mum.”


“I must get it.  I must get it.  I must get it.”

I was looking through my phone recently,  trying to get rid of pictures to free up some memory space, when I stumbled upon a picture and a video of Tilly.  The image brought back a funny memory of her obsession with the Wendy house.

A few years ago during the summer months,  she was constantly asking to go out.  We thought she had found a friend in the farm behind us, another dog to bark at and wag her tail to.  Every time she asked to go out, she ran over to the Wendy house near the fence we shared with the farm.  Normally the sound of the W word or the B word would hurry her back inside.  She didn’t want either and and my calls to bring her in were futile. So, I went out to investigate.

She ran, head and shoulders hunched down as though she was about to round sheep up, to one side of the playhouse, fitting just below the old table we had placed out there.  At first I thought she was trying to sniff at the fence behind us.  On closer inspection, she was actually sniffing in the small gap between the playhouse and the fence.  She sniffed loud and hard, in and out for about thirty seconds. Her tail was wagging in that way that shows intrigue and happiness as it swishes right to left in a flit of hurry.

Not content with her struggle she ran quickly, hunched shouldered and head lowered again, to the other side of the playhouse intent on getting to it.  She waited sniffing loud and hard again.

Then she ran back again to the left side.  She peered and sniffed.  Then the right.  Then the left.   She was possessed and had to get to it.  In her pursuit, she must have gone backwards and forwards for at least five minutes.

Unfortunately, she never did get to it.  And after I looked behind the playhouse, I couldn’t see anything.

Has anybody else’s dog been as obsessed with something similar?