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.


Scared Tilly




I know that my dog hates fireworks, the vacuum cleaner and the rattle of the kitchen pedal-bin when we come to empty it.  Throughout all these noises, she is very consistent in her approach: she either tries to sit on my knee, or she tries to get into the smallest place possible.


She’s a scaredy cat but I suppose if I was her, I would be too.  To the dog world, these noises are alien and I reckon the fight or flight instinct is switched on and the engine is raring to go when a loud noise is heard.  It just so happens that her instinct is to hide and hopefully the adults will take care of the situation.  I try to calm her down, but it doesn’t always seem to work.


Her anxiety got so bad a few weeks ago (the fireworks that were released were extremely loud even I thought they were coming through the window) that she was shaking, and in the subsequent days after, she refused to go for her nightly toilet break before going to bed.  It got to the point where she refused to even go for a walk on the days after it happened.  She would drag her body, cower with her tail between her legs and refused to go any further even though days before the fireworks she would relish her tri-daily walks.  This was when we decided to do a bit of research into how we could get her interested in walks again, and perhaps combat her hating the hoover at the same time.


Like other dogs, she is motivated by food.  Therefore, we decided to use her interest in food to our advantage.  We took biscuits on our subsequent walks with her.  She may have had her full attention on the biscuit in my hand, but at least she got further than the 100 yards she had walked previously.  Sometimes the biscuits worked and other times she didn’t need them at all.  While this is a short-term solution, I am tempted to buy one of those diffuser plug-ins that releases Pheromones – a device that I noticed my vets was plugging (no pun intended) when I went for a check-up with her recently.  It seems that it calms down the dog and you can get it in tablet form (definitely something I will be checking out soon!)  If anyone has any experience of either of these, post a comment in the box below and let me know.


Then there was the dreaded vacuum cleaner and how to combat her anxiety that meant she was running for the stairs as soon as it was taken out of the cupboard.  We needed something to get her associating the sound of the hoover with a positive experience.  She likes food; she loves treats.  One idea was to give her treats whilst hoovering.  We’ve tried it numerous times and the result is she doesn’t scarper off upstairs as soon as it comes out of its hiding place.  In fact, she now stands behind the hoover and tolerates the sound of it… just.  In fact, she has started to sit behind the vacuum cleaner, probably expecting treats all the time.


It’s just such a shame we haven’t figured out how to get her to like the sound of the bin.


What are your dogs scared of?