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Fearful and scared when dogs walk by... no not Gandalf, me!!! Gandalf has been attacked a few times now, and brushed it off like it's nothing. He can walk by a snarling growling dog on a narrow trail with an owner on hands and knees barely hanging on to the dogs collar and he just wags his tail and trots on by. Me on the other hand I'm a nervous wreck! Which is odd, I'm not a nervous person at all, I have never had an anxiety attack and always thought those things were just made up by overly dramatic people. But even when we walk past a calm dog my heart starts pounding, I start feeling shaky, it's ridiculous. I was never like this at all before he got attacked. I even carry a giant electric stun cane. I'm worried Gandalf is going to pick up on my fear eventually and become reactive himself. How do you guys get over it? I'm worried I won't be able to defend him or myself in the event of another attack. I don't trust anyone's dog except my own! I really can't bring myself to hurt an animal even one that's vicious and ugly. Just not in me. It's at the point where I avoid the best coolest hiking trails by my house because I'm afraid of being attacked there again. Instead we walk in the crappy city where there's hardly any sidewalk and cars rushing by constantly. Thoughts?
 

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My suggestion would be to go talk to a therapist. A good one will be able to talk you through the “why” of your response, and will be able to provide exercises for you to do to overcome this fear.

As an aside, I’m glad you have come to the realization that anxiety and panic are not just people being “dramatic”. That sort of stigma does no one any good.
 

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I agree with the suggestion to talk to a therapist. Maybe you could talk to your trainer, too; they might be able to give you some solid dog-specific strategies to go along with any anxiety-specific strategies the counselor could help you with.

I do have to say I’m really tired of the mental health stigmas and of societal attitudes that these very real conditions that cause very real suffering are nothing more than people being “dramatic.” It’s such a harmful attitude that leads people to hesitate or suffer in silence instead of getting the help they need.


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They taught us in nursing school how to reduce stress by changing which automatic nervous system in dominant. There are two parts of the autonomic nervous system which is responsible for regulating the body's unconscious actions. The Fight or Flight nervous system and the (much better sounding) Feed and Breed nervous system. The fight or flight runs on adrenaline. Thats why you feel weird and scared. The Feed and Breed, AKA as the Rest and Digest system, runs on acetylcholine and is about good dinners and love.

Heres the trick. You can willfully change to the Feed and Breed by controlling your breathing. When you notice the Fight or Flight effects, relax your belly muscles. Relax your shoulders. Breathe 10 slow deep breaths down into your belly. Its called belly breathing and this is how brand new babies breathe if you watch them. Their belly goes up and down, not their chest. You see a dog on the trail, you know you can zap this dog if you had to, so just relax and change nervous systems.
 

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Fearful and scared when dogs walk by... no not Gandalf, me!!! Gandalf has been attacked a few times now, and brushed it off like it's nothing. He can walk by a snarling growling dog on a narrow trail with an owner on hands and knees barely hanging on to the dogs collar and he just wags his tail and trots on by. Me on the other hand I'm a nervous wreck! Which is odd, I'm not a nervous person at all, I have never had an anxiety attack and always thought those things were just made up by overly dramatic people. But even when we walk past a calm dog my heart starts pounding, I start feeling shaky, it's ridiculous. I was never like this at all before he got attacked. I even carry a giant electric stun cane. I'm worried Gandalf is going to pick up on my fear eventually and become reactive himself. How do you guys get over it? I'm worried I won't be able to defend him or myself in the event of another attack. I don't trust anyone's dog except my own! I really can't bring myself to hurt an animal even one that's vicious and ugly. Just not in me. It's at the point where I avoid the best coolest hiking trails by my house because I'm afraid of being attacked there again. Instead we walk in the crappy city where there's hardly any sidewalk and cars rushing by constantly. Thoughts?
Shadow was attacked multiple times, including once where the dog jumped my fence into my yard, once where the dog literally jumped/climbed over me and grabbed Shadow inside my car also biting me and once where the dog had her by the neck and was trying to drag her off somewhere.
It is a traumatic and stressful experience to watch your dog get attacked and being told to get over it doesn't help.
So, here are a couple of tips that worked for me. I looped the leash around my waist to prevent me tightening the leash or transmitting tension down the leash. And against all advice I would talk to someone on the phone while I walked. Someone who understood that I was walking the dog and needed to pay attention but could help keep me out of hyper-vigilant mode. Because in my case I was contributing to Shadows issues by me being afraid.
I have an anxiety disorder anyway, and mild PTSD that troubles me at the worst times. Sabi was amazing at keeping everything on the level for me, Shadow makes me worse. Learn the 5-4-3-2-1 technique it helps, and when I get really stressed I recite poetry in my head to distract myself.
 

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I dealt with my apprehension/situational anxiety through an obedience class. That was a hard one for me to get through as I was double whammied between my nerves and my boy's reactive/aggressive behavior (at this point, I'm convinced some of his nervyness is probably due to genetics but my own nervyness through the years hinder has hindered him.) That first day I had dh with me for support but even with that, I just stood at the fringe of the group unable to move any further. The trainer saw, came over and took his leash for a walk around, it gave me a few minutes to gather myself while he showed my boy what behavior was expected.

That was basically all I needed and with each successful class, my confidence was better. We still aren't perfect but as like you I don't trust other dog owners and other dogs, so I keep at about a 15/20 ft distance.

Since you know the root cause of your anxiety, and Gandolph is as good as he is with other dogs, I think that a group class and/or very structured pack walk group with a knowledgeable trainer might help. It sounds like Gandolph has a really good level head and nerve base which will make it a lot easier for you while you work this out.

I just thought of something while typing, if you are good at reading other dogs body language and also humans and they look relaxed/safe to pass, the "look at me" and paying attentionon to Gandolph with his easy going nature may help you.

Nurse Bishop, that is interesting and helpful info.
 

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Hi. GTS. You know 2 things are going to happen when you go for a walk.
1. Gandalf is going to remain neutral when you walk by another dog and owner.
2.you will become anxious when you walk by a dog and owner.

What if you set one goal for yourself? Something like, I’m going to smile and say good morning to one of the owners that I pass by today.

It’s the dog youre worried about and focusing on the owner Eliminate the dog from the equation

It’s likely you know which dog and owner teams are safest. So pick just one of them.




Sabis mom’s idea of reciting something is great
 

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@Sabis, what is the 5,4,3,2,1 technique. Late for NW class but will be watching this thread.
name 5 things you see-a big pine tree, an orange cat, a mailbox, etc, 4 things you feel-the wind on my face, the ground under my feet, etc, 3 things you hear-the bus going past, a crow, a child laughing, 2 things you smell-bbq burgers, damp soil and 1 good thing about yourself-I am kind to animals.

Its a grounding technique, among other things it's commonly used to remove focus from the cause of anxiety.

You can use whatever works for you, 5 colors, 4 shapes, 3 animals. It doesn't really matter as its the pattern of it that is important for this use. The other technique I like is controlled breathing- in for 5 out for 5 in for 6 out for 6 in for 5 out for 5. I have also been known to use 1x6=6 2x6=12 3x6=18 etc.
 

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I recently wrote this down as it resonated wlth me,

Fear can be experienced due to a sense of a lack of control in the situation.

'I really can't bring myself to hurt an animal even one that's vicious and ugly.' Yes you can, you can protect your own.

My first german shepherd had the same temperament/personality as Gandalf. She got attacked three times by the same large aggressive male dog. I guess it was around 30 inches in height, weight range I'm guessing was 80 to 95lbs. The second time my dog was attacked I saw the dog and owner way off in the distance, and got hold of a large strong branch, just in case. The dog came in for the attack, but I was able to keep it off by laying into it hard and vigorously with my branch. It continued to circle us, looking for an opening, until finally the owner came up and grabbed the dog. I went that day to report the attack to the authorities, the owner of the attacking dog had been in before me complaining about me striking their dog.

That dog's history included, before finally killing a puppy, going for the throat of a ridden horse, as well as attacking several other dogs. I'm still amazed I was able to keep it off in that attack.
 

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It's your amygdala doing what it does. Sometimes it can even help to just realize that your brain responds and triggers the release of adrenaline and other reactions and then you feel all that happening and it is legitimately hard to think yourself out of your brain's instinctive response. I think it helps to understand that your brain is preparing you for fight or flight because this same scenario has been threatening in the past. it makes sense. There's nothing wrong with it. You also don't have to buy completely into it, even if you get the brain dump you can still do some rehearsed thinking about how you know what this is and why it's happening but if there is no actual threat then you can take steps to counter it.

Breathing techniques can really help-- here is one:

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.
Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Other ideas:

imagine the event that gives you anxiety. So sit quietly in your house, close your eyes and imagine passing a dog. As vividly as you can. You will probably get some anxiety, that's the idea, and then you do your breathing techniques to counter it. It's like less scary "practice" for the real thing.
 

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Fearful and scared when dogs walk by... no not Gandalf, me!!! Gandalf has been attacked a few times now, and brushed it off like it's nothing. He can walk by a snarling growling dog on a narrow trail with an owner on hands and knees barely hanging on to the dogs collar and he just wags his tail and trots on by. Me on the other hand I'm a nervous wreck! Which is odd, I'm not a nervous person at all, I have never had an anxiety attack and always thought those things were just made up by overly dramatic people. But even when we walk past a calm dog my heart starts pounding, I start feeling shaky, it's ridiculous. I was never like this at all before he got attacked. I even carry a giant electric stun cane. I'm worried Gandalf is going to pick up on my fear eventually and become reactive himself. How do you guys get over it? I'm worried I won't be able to defend him or myself in the event of another attack. I don't trust anyone's dog except my own! I really can't bring myself to hurt an animal even one that's vicious and ugly. Just not in me. It's at the point where I avoid the best coolest hiking trails by my house because I'm afraid of being attacked there again. Instead we walk in the crappy city where there's hardly any sidewalk and cars rushing by constantly. Thoughts?
It's not "ridiculous" and as people suggested, a good therapist could help you identify your self talk that is not helpful.

Lastly, avoidance feeds anxiety. The more you try to avoid other dogs the worse it gets. the only exception there is that if you know there is a place where the dogs are all off leash and an attack is likely to happen then that is not the place to confront avoidance if you know what I mean. It's good to push through avoidance but not into scenarios where your worst outcome is likely to happen. So you do need to figure out if you are wise to not use these trails or not. There are trails i won't walk my dogs on because everyone's dogs are offleash and mostly kind of out of control and I also have access to plenty of places to walk offleash where we never meet offleash dogs so that's just a no brainer. It's just the smart choice to take my dogs where they are safe, especially since my male does not have experience being rushed up on by a loose dog on trails and I think that might not go over well with him. I don't really blame him, he is an intact male and he can get huffy to certain dogs who come on in a certain way. He is quite nice socially to dogs I introduce properly so this trail thing just isn't something that interests me to deal with.
 

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Sorry one more!!

If you do regular stress management stuff--- some yoga or stretching and some mindfulness meditation, regularly, it can reduce your stress response severity when it happens. Doesn't need to be related to any kind of spiritual belief if that doesn't work for you. There are plenty of meditations and other resources geared toward stress management with no spiritual component. There are also ones that do if you prefer that.
 

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Oh GandalfTS, I have been there too :-(

Our dog was attacked several times by a neighbor's dog (they leave their dogs unsecurely tied to their deck). For weeks, whenever we walked by their house, Rumo's fur on his back would stand up, all the way in a line. And I would feel my heartbeat speed up and a rush of adrenaline (feeling superalert, where I was feeling sleepy or calm before). Now Rumo's fur doesn't stand up anymore but I still feel a little like this, and it's been about 3 months since the last attack.

I am not as nice as you...when he went for Rumo, who had been calmly walking down the sidewalk on the other side of the street, I felt total rage. I got between the dogs and screamed, "Go Away!!!" (which worked only for the first attack). I heard Rumo growling behind me, and after the owner came and got his dog (alerted by my yelling), I had to drag straining snarling Rumo away on the leash. He is not as nice as Gandalf...

Anyway a dog trainer recommended the citronella spray to me.
Spray the dog in the face, and it just totally confuses/bewilders them - without hurting them physically.
They sell it in a small can that you can keep in your pocket. I have not had to use mine yet...I hope it works.
But I would probably be more willing to use that, than to actually hit a dog with a stick.

Also my experience is that the odds are in our favor. At least in our area, most dogs are friendly. Some (usually little ones) will posture and growl and lunge. But there are very few that really mean business and will attack. (People who own dogs like that, will cross the street or pull their dogs way off the trail into the woods....at least where we live!).
 
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