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ZoeD1217 05-21-2014 12:39 PM

Anxiety in dog owner
I've been reading a bit about fear in dogs and it was mentioned how it is not fear in the same sense we experience fear. I'm curious (in the event you don't have a dog with rock solid nerves) is your dog set up to fail if it has an owner with weak nerves? I've seen it said numerous times that many issues where a dog is behaving oddly/badly/fearfully around other people or dogs it is the owners fault. The way we react has a direct impact on how our dog feels about the situation.

So is a dog with an owner who has severe anxiety and/or social anxiety at an extreme risk of being a fearful dog?

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LaRen616 05-21-2014 12:42 PM

I have anxiety (I don't like meeting new people, I don't like being social) but my dog is a social butterfly, he isn't fearful and he loves going places and meeting new people and new dogs.

He does however have separation anxiety from me so someone cannot walk away with him but I can take him to someone's house that he knows and leave him there and he is fine.

angierose 05-21-2014 12:59 PM

I have moderate social anxiety and agoraphobia as well as generalized anxiety. The dog I raised from a puppy is a complete social butterfly, excellent around all people and dogs. The adult dog I got from the Humane Society, which came with aggression issues, has become a solid, dependable animal. He does have a definite "bubble" where strange dogs are concerned (particularly terriers) but it is predictable and getting steadily smaller.

I think part of the issue is how the owner handles themselves. If you let your anxiety keep you from getting out and you don't manage to socialize your dog or work with it on a regular basis, you may have problems. If you are unable to control your reactions on a regular basis, you may have problems. But if you are actively working on both yourself and your dog, I believe it can work.

Actually, I am better since getting my dogs. They offer something to focus on when the world is overwhelming. I also discovered that I really like being around dogs, and training them, and talking about them. It gives you another skill set, which can be helpful in building confidence and self-worth.

ZoeD1217 05-21-2014 03:21 PM

Thank you both for sharing! I actually have plenty I wanted to say but I haven't had the time to sit down and type it out.
My anxiety has become worse and harder to deal with over the past few years. I always thought it would get easier...get a little older become more comfortable and confident in myself and the social awkwardness would lessen. Unfortunately that hasn't happened. I've just become more content in keeping to myself.
Either way. I feel guilt that I can't even walk Zoe without her barking at everyone and that it might be I'm sending her mixed signals. No matter how I prepare I well always get that feeling in my gut when approached by someone.
We are meeting with a new trainer tomorrow. I'm so nervous just thinking about it.

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Cara Fusinato 05-21-2014 04:11 PM

Conversely -- I am massively comfortable with my dog any time, anywhere because previously I had a service dog (long story, seizures from head trauma, I got better, didn't replace when my dog retired/passed). I have had my dog at Disneyland, jury duty, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, dog training, Wal-Mart on a Sunday, you name it. No fear.

My current dog is a bundle of nerves. Like shivering nerves. Afraid of people, dogs, buses, worried sick about anything and everything tht might harm us.

I go to vet yesterday, me and the sheltie sitting on the bench chatting with people, looking out the window, my boy literally cowering under the bench. New vet -- never been there, no bad memories. He could hear traffic. Dogs walked by the window as did people.

While not answering nervous people = nervous dogs, I can answer confident people can have nervous dogs. Can have a nervous one and a solid one side by side in the exact same environment.

What you may be sending in your example is the "protect me" signal. Not the same as fearful and weak-minded. There have been many times were I have had a nervous moment and my SD would puff up and go protective, once where I was in danger and someone was coming at me and he barked once and blocked, other times when I was a little uneasy and to that his response was much lesser with just a steady warning gaze to someone to give space.

The "protect me" thought is way different than saying a dog is fearful, aggressive, and anxiety-filled.

Athena'sMom 05-21-2014 04:23 PM

I too have generalized anxiety. Athena is a social butterfly. My dogs are my therapy. Being with Athena and Sinister automatically calm my nerves on a bad day. Dogs read body language more than emotions. If your body is tense so is the leash and then so is the dog. What I try to do on walks is relax, turn my mind off. It is not a time for me to "what if" think or stress about my day it is a time to be with my dogs and release the stress of the day.
My trainer I go to taught me to relax my arms as I hold tension on my leash. At first it was not natural but over time it became a habit. Also don't react with the leash if you see something she may bark at. relax the leash if you tense up she feel that on her collar and then she goes into protection mode not fear. Again dogs speak in body language not with their emotions, just stay calm and relax your body. I use yoga as a way to learn to breath. It helps me be in the moment vs. living in the anxiety. My anxiety is so much better since starting yoga. Good luck!!

ApselBear 05-21-2014 04:26 PM

Some dogs will naturally be more confident than others. I like to think that if you build a trust in your dog and then keep your focus on how she's handling situations, and less on how you will handle it, she'll help you lose some of that edge.

I am by no means confident in everything I do. And I'm definitely awkward at times, but I have became more comfortable over time just realizing that everyone is a little awkward and probably even insecure, we just all have different ways of handling it. Ultimately, it takes work just like everything else life throws at us. The more we work on it, the less it matters, or we even improvements.

Trust your dog, she'll do the rest.

Pax8 05-21-2014 04:40 PM

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I say it's dependent on both genetics and how you carry yourself during interactions where there is a chance for anxiety.

I have a severe anxiety disorder that often results in panic attacks, but my current dog is the most stable one I've ever had. It's probably partially due to genetics as I was very picky about finding temperamentally solid dogs to buy a puppy from, but there is a lot that can be said for his extensive socialization and the care I put into my body language when we encounter new or stressful situations.

It also helps that having a dog around makes a huge positive impact on my stress level. I've gotten better, but alone I still tend to be a nervous wreck. But with my dog? I could go into pretty much any situation confident that I could handle it. So that confidence is something Kaiju is exposed to anytime he is around me whether we are walking, training, or working.

angierose 05-21-2014 04:50 PM

If you can, see if you can get into therapy. You don't need to go forever, although some people choose to and that's fine. Even a few sessions with a good therapist can help. I did an intensive outpatient program for a couple of weeks, they taught different techniques for dealing with situations and different calming techniques, and how to change the way you think. Even books can be helpful, they have cognitive behavioral therapy books for anxiety. The key is keeping up with what you're taught on your own. Some people do grow out of anxiety, but many do not, and if you develop the tools to deal with it and practice consistently, your life can be a lot more fulfilling.

Sorry to veer off-dog-topic, but I was terrified of things for more years than was necessary because I wouldn't seek help. It's no fun.

Mishka&Milo 05-21-2014 07:31 PM

I've found that my girl helps me overcome a lot of it just by my not wanting to make her uneasy.... Now she is even trained to alert my husband when I start feeling uncomfortable, and lick my hand. I'm well looked after :)

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