My dog has self-destructive anxiety!
Her whole life, my German Shep, named Eva, has had anxiety, but it seems to have lessened in some areas and gotten worse in some areas with her. She's one year old now. When she was younger, she took classes at Petco and was scared of the slippery floors over there (she actually took two days to learn to walk in our house, with wood floors at first) but she's gotten much better with that now. She still gets scared of the natural food section, which has wood floors, but on the regular tile floors she walks almost normal now.
She also has a bad history with groomers, however. For her first two groomings, starting when she was about 2 months, to 6 months, she was good, she didn't have any major problems. Some anxiety, but nothing dangerous. But on her third grooming at Petco, she was banned from there because they said she was too hard to care for. Yesterday, we took her to a different groomer and she had the same problem; they said they could only do mobile with her, or perhaps with extra help. They finished the grooming but she was having horrible anxiety and they were afraid she'd have a heart attack. She has broken two of the groomer's cages using her teeth, and the second time it caused her teeth to bleed.
So basically, in places we can expose her, she's gotten better over time. She's a year now and she used to be scared of doors, sticks, and basically anything that wasn't there at first. Now, on walks she isn't afraid of doors, but still does have a slight fear of sticks, in which she will walk away from them rather than go close to them because of a past experience (we were playing with sticks together and I accidentally hit her in the face with one).
In places where she cannot normally be there, like the groomers, she will freak out. I don't want to sedate her, but next time we get her groomed we might have to go to vet and get her sedated. I don't want this to happen, I want her anxiety to be helped with training, or something. She was decently exposed as a pup, not as much as I admittingly would want her to be, but still socialized to a good point. I don't want to drag her into places anymore. Please help, if you can. At least some advice.
PS: My dog is wonderful other than that. I love her and she is near perfect except for that. A very easy to train, lovely, friendly yet protective and aware, patient, awesome dog. She really loves us, and probably needs to learn that leaving her family for a bit won't hurt. When we leave the house she isn't destructive or anything, except one time when every single person left the house. She didn't break anything, but had diarrhea all over my floor. It wasn't nice.
Sorry that you are having such issues with Eva. This type of extreme fear and anxiety that you describe is not your fault. It is poor nerves, the way Eva's brain is wired, and she was born that way - poor genetics.
At this point, if this were my dog, I would just focus on managing her and keeping her i a safe zone. If she is happy and relaxed at home, then I would let her stay home as much as possible. I don't know why at 1yr old she has been to the groomers so often? I've never taken my dogs to the groomers. I brush, bathe, clip long coats (my mixed-breed), clean ears, and do nails myself. My GSD is four years old, and he only gets a bath a year (if that) - but to be fair, we have six months of frozen winter, where the dogs do not get a chance to get dirty.
I have not had to deal with extreme anxiety in dogs, but I don't think that medication is all that evil if it allows them to live a fuller, happier life. Nowadays, medications are very good at pinpointing and treating the exact issue, helping brain chemistry to re-balance, instead of just sedating the dog so that they are dopey and out of it.
Medication can be a big help in getting an anxious dog to learn coping behaviours. Your vet or an animal behaviourist may help with this. Depending on your dog's level of anxiety, the medication can be only for a few months, during which time you work with your dog to desensitze her to some of her most common fears.
She will probably always be a fearful dog. I think she can improve with medication and some more training, but I would dial back the socialization and outings - socialization is only beneficial if the experience is positive. With Eva, it probably just re-enforces her fears.
And I'd really not worry about taking her to the groomers - especially since it is such a traumatic experience for her. GSDs will do just fine with the occasional brushing and the once-in-a-while bath.
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