Help An Anxious Dog On Walks
Dogs can become anxious on walks for various reasons. New or unfamiliar environments, other dogs, loud noises, or even past negative experiences can trigger anxiety. Some dogs may feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, causing stress. Additionally, dogs are highly attuned to their owners’ emotions, so if the owner is anxious or tense, the dog might also become anxious. It’s crucial to identify the specific triggers for your dog’s anxiety on walks and work on desensitization and positive reinforcement to help them feel more relaxed and confident during outings. In this post we take a look out how we can help anxious dogs on walks and get those tails wagging again!
A Personal Story
Darcy came to us five years ago, he was difficult to rehome because his fear aggression was so bad. As with all rescue dogs, there is limited background information, however, we could tell that he needed a stable, secure future. It became very clear to us that Darcy’s anxiety became heightened when outside on walks. He would sometimes stop dead and refuse to move, he was reactive to traffic, cycles, other dogs and was always much happier on the route home.
It’s incredibly sad to see a dog hating something that should be extremely pleasurable. I knew we had to continue for Darcy’s physical and mental health. It took awhile to make steps forward but gradually his nervousness reduced.
I wanted to share my experience and hopefully help other people whose dogs are anxious on walks.
Recently we found a companion for Darcy in the hope that it would help with his insecurities. Little Ripley, is now Darcy’s sidekick. He follows him everywhere and Darcy seems to like having a BFF.
We chose a very confident puppy who would show Darcy that the world is not a scary place. So far, it seems to be working!
It’s so hard to rehabilitate a dog with severe anxiety and it has been a very slow progress. There will always be problems that are too ingrained to change and we have learned to live with some aspects.
Spotting triggers and avoiding situations has become a part of everyday life with Darcy.
Here Are My Top Tips For Helping An Anxious Dog On Walks
- Choose the Right Environment: Begin with quiet and familiar routes to reduce stress. Gradually introduce new places once your dog becomes more comfortable.
- Positive Reinforcement: Use treats, praise, and encouragement to reward calm behavior. This will create positive associations with the walk.
- Slow and Steady: Start with short walks and slowly increase the duration and complexity. Let your dog set the pace and progress at their comfort level.
- Use a Harness or Gentle Leader: These tools can provide better control without causing discomfort to your dog.
- Stay Calm and Confident: Dogs can pick up on your emotions, so try to maintain a calm and relaxed demeanor during walks.
- Desensitization: Gradually expose your dog to the things that trigger their anxiety in a controlled and positive way. For example, if they fear other dogs, practice introducing them to friendly, calm dogs one at a time.
- Engage in Short Training Sessions: Incorporating training exercises during walks can keep your dog’s mind occupied and build their confidence.
- Consistency: Stick to a routine to help your dog feel more secure and know what to expect.
- Consult a Professional: If your dog’s anxiety is severe or persistent, consider seeking the help of a professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist.
Products To Help Fearful Dogs When Out Walking
My Anxious Dog is A UK based company, specialising in yellow dog accessories for nervous dogs. Their website has lots of useful information and products to get your dog walking confidently.
Another suggestion is that the dog could wear a coat, bandana, or lead which signifies that he is a nervous dog or one that needs his space. Strangers can instantly see that the dog should not be approached by the distinctive yellow colour. These have been around for a while now and I have noticed that many dog walkers recognise the significance of the yellow bandana and will avoid close contact which really helps whilst out walking.
If you are worried that your dog may become aggressive, a muzzle can be helpful. I was concerned that Darcy would lose sensory enjoyment when wearing a muzzle, however, I was reassured that there are types which don’t hinder the dog’s ability to smell or bark. Someone is a lot less likely to approach a dog wearing a muzzle, so just the sight of one should act as a deterrent.
A Thundershirt is a coat that is attached firmly around the dog’s torso in a very similar way to swaddling a baby. The theory is that the tightly secured coat makes the dog feel safe. I bought one for Darcy and he is always happy for me to put it on him.
A few drops of Rescue Remedy in the dogs drinking water can reduce anxiety and allow the dog to get more enjoyment from his daily walk. Rescue Remedy Pets uses natural flower essences to help ease tension, nervousness & excitability.
In conclusion, walking an anxious dog can be a challenging but rewarding journey for both you and your furry companion. Understanding the triggers for your dog’s anxiety, and implementing the right techniques and tools, is crucial in helping them feel more comfortable and confident during walks. Patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement are your greatest allies in this endeavor. By providing a calm and supportive environment and gradually exposing your dog to new experiences, you can make walks an enjoyable and stress-free activity for them. Remember, every small step towards reducing their anxiety will lead to more enjoyable walks and a happier, more confident pup.
There is loads of information on this blog about how anxiety can affect dogs and tips that have helped along the way.
Here are just a few:-
Thank you for reading.