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.


Tilly, a strange dog but one I couldn’t live without.

285Tilly is a talker.  Yep, that’s right.  She lets me know when she wants anything – not by barking but by a high-pitched whinge.  I want feeding.  Whinge.  I want to go outside.  Whinge.  I want a snack.  Whinge.  Some people call it crying, but it is definitely a whinge as it is used all the time for anything that she wants.

Also, she fails to understand how to fetch a ball and bring it back.  When we used to have Bess, Tilly would run after her, try to stop her from getting the toy and drag Bess’ back and bum down.  This greatly annoyed Bess, but to Tilly it was part of her game.  Fetch to Tilly is not where she catches the ball but where you are competing with her to get it.  When I try to play it with her, she gets so excited that she starts barking and stares at you. Those questioning brown eyes bore into yours wondering what you are going to do next and hoping that she won’t be expected to run backwards and forwards after a ball. Why would she need to fetch the ball when the silly human is doing it?

One of her hobbies is protecting the post from everybody.  As soon as it comes through the letterbox, it’s her property and she won’t let anybody near it.  She guards it by facing the door and sitting on the item of post. This is the only time where she gives us the cold shoulder. Instead you are given a lovely view of the right side of her body. As soon as you go anywhere near it, she tries to grab it first as though it is a little competition that she has to win.

Another hobby is eating her own poop.  Yes, I know it sounds disgusting,  but it is true.   We went to the vets about it when we first got her, and they said that some puppies grow out of  it and others don’t.  She has never grown out of it – especially now nearly 12 years later.  So we try to avoid letting her kiss us.

She also has an in-built clock that lets her know when it is time for breakfast and dinner.  It is scarily accurate, as it goes off at least half an hour before her designated feeding times.  She always takes pleasure in informing us with one of her whinges.

And finally,  it is her life’s ambition to find any meagre of sun (whether it is out in the garden or slithering through the slits in the blinds) and bask in its heat.  She loves the feel of it on her fur.

Do you have a dog with strange habits?  I’d love to discuss them below.


“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?

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?