Nigel Reed, founder of Dog Training in London, is a dog trainer and dog behaviour expert with twelve years’ experience working with the most difficult dogs. As a regular dog behaviour consultant on national television and radio, Nigel also works on his social enterprise The Wolf Within, teaching young people with behavioural problems to train dogs with behavioural problems. Here he explains how to help your pet if they’re suffering from dog anxiety and how you can ensure they always feel safe in their environment.
One of the most tragic sights for an owner to see is their dog looking anxious, nervous or scared. By not understanding the world, the dog can become overwhelmed with all the stimuli and as a result exhibit many unsettling behaviours.
I have seen nervous dogs behaviours manifest in a variety of ways, such as choosing to spend large amounts of time on their own, to dogs that pant heavily and hide once a visitor comes in the house, to dogs that freeze outside and cannot function. The reason why a dog will become nervous is due to an uncertainty of their environment.
Helping nervous dogs
As the dog will never be able to make complete sense of what is going on in the human world, they need us to show them that we will protect them. Whatever the issue is – be it scared of other dogs, visitors or going outside – the first thing to do is identify when the dog believes it to be a problem. Secondly, we then must demonstrate to our dogs that we the owners are okay with the situation.
Once you understand what the dog is scared of, you can then identify the point in which it feels safe and build the information in slowly at the dogs pace. For example – if a dog is scared to go outside ask yourself; is he okay when I open the front door?
Dogs learn through accumulated experience so we must ensure each experience accumulated is a positive lesson.
If your dog’s state rises once the front door is opened, then many lessons need to be done in the home to make him feel comfortable before moving on.
If your dog is scared of people, it is best for them to get experiences where people are ignoring the dog to demonstrate they are non-confrontational. Once these lessons build over time and the dog’s confidence grows, you can take it a small step further by asking a visitor to call the dog over and give them a treat.
If your dog is scared of other dogs, then make sure each dog they meet is respectful of your dogs’ space. Overtime with many lessons of well-mannered dogs combined with a communication to demonstrate that you are okay with each situation, your dog’s confidence will grow.
Remember to go at your dog’s pace – there is no hurry. The more quality lessons you put in when your dog is ready, the quicker you will see the changes. Each time you move ahead too quickly you will experience a setback.