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?


It used to elicit a deafening bark and an energetic jump at the letter box.  But now, as she’s older and rather calmer, the tail proceeds with a slow sway at the tip moving from right to left.  The excitement fires through the rest of the shaft and it develops into a full force wag until the tail becomes a blur of black and white.  It bounces excitedly from side to side, until eventually her rear end is moving in time with the wag and it takes over the whole of her body.

Cycle Path.jpg

Sometimes she refuses to go a particular route, knowing that one way takes her down the cycle path while the other way is a swift and perfunctory ticking of that all-important box.   And as she walks down the street or the track, every object that crosses her path is new and highly important.  Everything on the floor gives off a scent that it is imperative that she sniffs it.  Every person needs to be touched with her nose as they walk past.  Every dog needs to be greeted.  The walls and the bins need to be inspected.


As she’s walking down the paths she knows so well, her mouth is parted showing gum and a slight display of teeth into a smile.  Her eyes dart from left to right showing everyone she walks past, “Look, I’m happy.  I’m out for a walk.  I’m an important dog.”  Tail in the air, she has to show off because she is relishing it so much.


To her, they aren’t taking her out.  She’s taking them out.  And she’s so pleased they like going with her.


It’s just a shame that within ten minutes of coming back in, she’s sniffing the lead again.

Feeding Time…

BowlsIt rouses her from her deep slumber.  It makes her erratically impatient on her leisurely walks so that she nearly canters down the road, feet barely touching the ground, frightened that she will miss it.




Her internal alarm clock, built up from the daily routine of the last twelve years, cries out that she needs to be fed and even demands that it happens right now.  She informs them through that high-pitched whinge that she has perfected.  It is matched with a pawed arm or a pawed knee.  She will not be perturbed until she can feel the glorious sensation of each biscuit crumb and each drip of juice slide deliciously down her throat.


“You must listen to me, guys!  I want feeding!”


It happens twice a day, and they are in no doubt that it is near breakfast or dinner time.  Sometimes she is impatient and starts her demanding early, sometimes an hour before when the clocks are put back.


And once she’s done, once she’s sated, she lies in that black and white fluffy ball, tip of nose touching tip of tail and dreams of those long walks on that cold beach or that half-gnawed bone.


She’s content.  She’s peaceful.


Well, until next time…