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The Anxious Canine (Part 1)

Five reasons why your dog may be anxious in no particular order;

  1. Their past
  2. Personality
  3. Stress
  4. Miss-understood
  5. Feeling unsafe

Points to address to help them move forward

  1. Gaining their trust in you
  2. Have patience and understanding
  3. Be their decision maker when they fail to make the right choice
  4. Support with silence and just being
  5. Be calm, slow down
  6. Be proactive, not reactive
  7. Change you and you change your dog
  8. If your dog is over exuberant you be calmer …your dog is your mirror
  9. Let your dog be a dog and rather than you endeavour to stop the behaviours, help them modify behaviours them themselves with the right guidance from you.

We all have coping mechanisms when things go wrong or we find ourselves in places, situations or with people, where we feel we don’t fit. It is dependent on personality and past experiences how we cope or don’t cope in any given situation.


Puppies come into our home and from the get go they are; finding out about their new world and you, testing boundaries, testing what they get and how, who keeps them safe, who is a pushover and who “jumps the highest when I say jump”. Who sets attainable boundaries? Who gets them and educates them and understands that they learn in their time, not owners expectations.

A puppy needs to grow into an adult both physically and mentally going through umpteen stages en-route. A can’t be the perfect adult until he reaches 2 to 3 yrs old. So when we hear people say oh “My puppy at 4 months can come back when called, walk on a lead, sit and stay and drive the car” Me being me this does get alarmed bells ringing through my head …. Too much too soon in some cases and personality dependant does come with a bigger teenage pull back at 9 months old, the now adolescent. The reason I say this is because time and time again I get calls from owners saying they had the “Perfect puppy and now at 6 months or 9 months or 12 months it’s all gone out of the window.

Ok, I invariably see the negative side due to the nature of my business and it’s safe to say it’s the really bright and intelligent dogs that generally experience the pear-shaped life. The bright ones tend to be needier of being understood as a dog. They won’t sit just because they’ve been asked to, they won’t stay 20 foot away because that’s what is expected of them, they don’t take well to being popped on a lead. They feel really vulnerable for not being able to understand our world, us and how we live. They get crushed when they are being a dog, puppy and get told to get down, sit down all the time when all they are doing is expressing their feelings. I’m not saying we stop giving them boundaries of behaviours, simply doing it a slightly different way, the way they understand better, that they are not naughty or being corrected verbally all the time, but actually being shown sympathetically how to live their lives harmoniously with us.

In a dogs world, it’s either works or it doesn’t, it’s either right or wrong. They like simple and uncomplicated. Don’t get me wrong they love living and learning with us and becoming part of us. So with this in mind, we need to educate our dogs within their capabilities, personalities,  and we need to adjust how we approach various learning curves in their time frame and abilities ( recognising their individual fear periods and when we need to hold back) not our expectations.

No two puppies are the same even from the same breed, same little, same age, same sex. They are all individuals in their own right and we need to be very mindful of that.

We wish to bring out their true fun-loving personalities, carefree and for them to know who is there for them when the poop hits the fan!

Too much too soon and in less than ideal environments with the wrong friends, for many, can result in:


anxious canineReactive to most is the label for aggressive dogs, barking, lunging and frothing at the mouth, dogs with hackles up. Reactive for me is any reaction that shows that a dog is not at ease in any given situation. I suppose the label reactive has been put on these dogs more so because more often than not the quiet reactive is not noticed and certainly no so much of a danger to anyone or anything.

Dogs will react when they feel vulnerable and out of their depth in any given situation. We have all been there and that’s why I do what I do now, I’ve failed my own dogs in the past and my journey started with the desire to make a difference and my starting point was to understand them as dogs and how they see the world in our world. Why for me asking a dog to sit when its world was collapsing around it, invariably made the situation worse, why a dog wouldn’t sit 20 foot away from me in a class. Seeing the dog as a thinking being and one who needed guidance, rather than one that needed to be trained or was naughty was my turning point.


These dogs are stable in mind, have been able to express themselves as dogs under guidance from owners. They have the most amazing canine communication signals and presence. They are kind, calm and patient. These guys and girls are either the “Whatever personalities” The ones who don’t take things personally or dwell on events (unless the event keeps happening). Or ones that have a great presence and clear communication signals that are non-threatening but very meaningful. These guys will diffuse a situation without a fuss

We see this many times dogs who live with people on the streets, no one gets in their space, therefore they don’t need to become protective of their space or their owner’s space. They get fed, they get ignored by passers-by. These dogs don’t get overstimulated by occurrences or the owners feeling the need to occupied their every hour or minute. They lay patiently and rest easily watching the world pass by whilst their owner is just being, quiet and gentle putting no pressure on the dog to be anything but who he is naturally. The dog feels protected and safe with their owner and invariably will just turn ahead if gazed at by a passer-by.

We also see street dogs who bumble about their day in their own territories, invariably meeting in certain paces to chill together. There will be one or two they follow because they feel safe with them. They communicate effectively and dependant on personality will look to each other for guidance and decision making. They generally just “can be” as a group of like-minded beings feeling safe in the knowledge they are understood and connected. No interaction with humans generally and feel safe. In many countries, they are safe to just do that. These dogs fascinate me. I follow the activities of the “Soi Dog Foundation” who rescue many dogs from disastrous situations and life-threatening situations. Many, they can re-home to loving families over the world, and its paws up to the dogs who can learn to love and trust us humans and many who a so very ready to give themselves to us totally, even when they have been let down by humans before.

Behavioural modification programmes have to concentrate not only on the dog but more importantly on the human. If you change your approach and become proactive and calm then you’ll be making great headway.

Take a look at;

Rescue remedy

And CBD oil

These can help you but do not rely on these entirely as it has to be you and how you are that’s most important.

Ask about dosages from your holistic vet.

By Caroline Spencer

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