My dog has become anxious, help!

Posted by maddie
Nov 2, 2008
:eek: I have a 4 year old lab/shep mix whom we adopted 3 yars ago from a shelter. She was perfect and learned quickly. Now we are having problems. Since 4th of July she has gotten worse. She always hated loud noises and this past 4th she got very upset - shaking and wanting our comfort. It got to the point that even after the 4th and no sounds she hated going outside at night. She would shake and get upset. She got to the point that she would dig and break the PVC gate to get out of her run. This never was an issue before. Now this has gotten so bad that no matter what time of day she hates being outside by herself. We have to put her on a long leash in her run so she won't break out. Recently she started getting destructive, trying to climb the wall while on her long line, ripping the ivy off the wall, shredding anything that is near her. She will do whatever it takes to break out and get inside, including rip the screen door to get inside. HELP!!
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Dec 24, 2009
Hi Maddie

Fear of fireworks is quite common in dogs as they don't understand where the sudden loud noises are coming from. It sounds like for your dog it has become a phobia and she now relates being outside to it too. You will have to take care when handling her when she is in a state of frenzy as she may be so panicked that she may bite anything in her way. You won't be able to train this out of her as it is an instinctive thing, so the best way is to avoid the situation where she gets into such a panic. This can be done by helping her overcome her fears so that she realizes being outside is a good thing after all.

The first thing to do is to desensitize her to being outside alone. She needs to learn that nothing bad is going to happen to her there. You will have to take it slowly and be very patient but firm with her when getting her used to things that scare her. Feeding her outside is a good way of helping her learn that being being outside is not to be feared. If she is calm and behaves herself, reward her lavishly with treats and attention, talking to her the whole time in a cheerful voice. Then play a few games with her so that she can learn to fully relax in those surroundings. Giving her commands, such as 'sit-stay' and '' when outside will also distract her from her fear and give her something else to focus on. Do this as many times a day as possible and she will learn quickly that there is nothing to be scared of outside. Once she come is comfortable being outside when playing with you, take her out sometimes and just sit quietly with her, but not paying any attention to her, even if she comes up to you and asks for it. This will slowly acclimatize her to being outside. Once she is completely comfortable with, you should be able to start leaving her outside for short periods of time by herself. These intervals should only be 5 minutes each in the beginning, although the more times a day this can be done the better. Progressively build up the time she spends alone in her run but make sure you don't rush this, and that she is completely happy before going on to the next stage. Eventually, she will be able to spend long periods of time outside without becoming stressed at all.

An important thing to remember is never to comfort her or tell her 'its ok' when she is panicking, as this will reinforce her fear and make it worse. Therefore each time she is showing this behavior, you need to ignore her and walk away, not even making eye contact. Eventually she will come to see that you are not afraid of it and so there is no reason that she should be either.

It will also help if you have your status as alpha dog firmly established as she will feel safer and more secure knowing she is not in charge, and that you are there to protect her should fearful circumstances arise.

This sort of anxiety is quite difficult to overcome but with patience and persistence on your behalf, the hard work will be rewarded in the end.

I hope this helps and all the best with your training!