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What is life like with an anxious dog?

Detective Walter's story

By David GilbeyPublished 12 months ago 3 min read

No two dogs are alike. Our anxious dog, called Walter, has two main issues.

1. Separation anxiety

2. Fear of people and other dogs

On top of his anxiety, we live abroad and move every 6 months or so. It really doesn’t help him. Stability and routine are the name of the game with Walter and it shows when we move, he is much more likely to react to neighbor sounds, bikes, cars, balls, skateboards, you name it. At least for the first week or so until he settles in.

What does this actually look like?

On a day-to-day basis, someone always has to be with him, usually at home. We are slowly training him to be alone for short periods of time but it’s a long game.

When we go out, he has to wear a harness and muzzle. When we first got him he was TERRIBLE. He would have uncontrollable fits of rage, once it had started, it was near impossible to calm him. Add to this that we lived in a country where the bulk of people were afraid of, or hated dogs, and you had a recipe for disaster.

We have had people try and hit our dogs, shout at them, threaten to kill our dogs. When you are trying to build trust with an anxious dog, to desensitise them to people on the street, man, it is hard to keep your cool when someone attacks them. But we have to remember that in this country, modern training techniques are not really here yet, people do not know any better. In fact even in my home country of England, where dogs are typiclaly loved and not feared, people are often at fault of this.

When you are training your dog, you have to remember that other people are not, they are not aware of what you are doing or how you are doing it.

Now, through training and medication, we have systems for him. We have become hyper-aware of his triggers on the street. If I see a hyperactive dog coming down the street towards us on a lead I know that isn’t going to go down well, I will avoid this dog if I think it will go really badly, put myself between Walter and the dog. I keep a loose lead and tell Walter calmly how good he is. Sometimes I just crouch down and bury Walter's head in my chest, stroke him, and again, tell him calmly how good he is.

After two years of medication and desensitization training (albeit not very consistent training), Walter is able to go to the dog park (he stays by us the whole time there, both adorable and a little sad), he can go to cafes (with a muzzle on and us anxiously watching him the whole time), on the underground even!

I suppose that is our story, like I said every dog is different, your situation is different. We have had some small success and it has taken two years, some dogs never get better, so get better quicker. For us, it has been worth the effort, for others, a new home might be more appropriate, we have certainly considered this option many times and that is fine too.

It's not all doom and gloom, we have many good days with Walter, at home he is cuddly, he is sweet, he snores while laying on my chest and he boops us with his nose when he wants dinner.

I would love to hear some stories about you and your dogs so drop them in th comments. Maybe you had an experience with an anxious dog? Maybe you have one?

dog

About the Creator

David Gilbey

Hi, my name is David. I'm a 29 year old Englishman living in Georgia (the country, not the state).

I work as a freelance administrator and English teacher, I've done this for 4 years while travelling with my 2 dogs and my girlfriend.

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    David GilbeyWritten by David Gilbey

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