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Thread: anxiety issues while walking??

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2017

    anxiety issues while walking??


    I adopted Scout from the city shelter in early February. They say he is about a year old, listed as a Shepard mix but I'm not sure, he's only 41 pound (attached pic below).
    He was picked up as a stray apparently. So I don't know his "story".

    He's so sweet. Very smart. Minimal potty issues. Loves to play fetch for for hours!

    Now let's talk about walking ... we have a nice Greenway by a river, I don't have much issues there for some odd reason -- only thing is to keep his pulling in check and to be very aware when other dogs walk past us (he lunges and barks a little).

    My issues are in the neighborhood. Oh my word. He's a mess. Pulls, circles me, paces, he just can't seem to walk in a straight line. It's hard for me cause I fear of getting tripped. He wants to go walk ... gets excited but then starts the craziness as soon as we start to walk up our street.
    We have bought 4-5 different harnesses.
    1. Normal flat collar, he pulls pretty hard, chokes himself.
    2. Harness with the leash hook on the back .... pulls very much
    3. Front connect harness, works pretty well but he still pulls where the adjustments loosen and rubs him pretty bad.
    4. Gentle lead head harness, he can't pull me as hard but he does still pull to the point it rubbed a spot on his nose
    5. Another kind of head harness, same as above.

    When we walk by dogs in their yard (behind fence etc) he will stand on his back legs - straight up (!!!), cry out, whine, yelp, making all sorts of loud and crazy sounds ... we just keep encouraging him and try to use treats to keep him walking ... we get him walking but it's not pretty, he's not motivated by treats much and last night I took a ball and he didn't even care about that .... shew.

    I walk a lot ... twice a day every day so he has learned where all the dogs are even when they aren't out his behaviors start in anticipation.
    He will even do the stand on hind legs and whine when he sees birds, squirrels, etc but not nearly as bad as he does when it's a dog.

    It's nearly to the point that I can't walk him. He's stressed and so am I and I just can't go to the Greenway each and every time I want to walk.

    Any thoughts or suggestions?

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails anxiety issues while walking??-18010448_10154224621431652_266029487504610455_n.jpg
    Last edited by stclairt; 04-25-2017 at 01:37 PM.

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Shell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009

    Re: anxiety issues while walking??

    Going bonkers when seeing (or about to see) other dogs when out on a leash is often "leash reactivity"

    Check out this thread: (Links, books, blogs etc for reactive / leash aggressive dogs and similar)

  4. #3
    Senior Member Lillith's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    North Dakota

    Re: anxiety issues while walking??

    Sounds like reactivity, which is basically your dog gets so excited he just has a meltdown and his brain falls out. It can be caused by "OMG I see a dog I want to play with dog Yay!" or "OMG I see a dog, I am scared of dog!". It is not at all uncommon, especially with young dogs, for them to get so excited at the prospect of meeting another person or dog to go nuts. Mine used to flip out when he saw people or dogs, absolute barking crazy mess. It's hard to say if your dog is afraid or excited without seeing it. Mostly the same approach to training, it though.

    Definitely check out the thread Shell mentioned.

    In a nutshell, I taught my dog a good "look at me" meaning he would focus on me, then get a treat. I use really awesome treats for this, treats he does not normally get. Try cheese, deli meat, hot dogs, really high value food. Once he understood this command, I took it out on the streets.

    My dog's triggers were other dogs, people, roller skaters, bikers, skateboarders, and joggers. At first, I tried to create as much distance as possible between these things. If he was reacting, we were too close (over threshold) and thus he was unable to learn. I rewarded him for remaining calm and focusing his attention on me. We slowly closed the distance at which he could remain calm around triggers, and today we can successfully pass other dogs on the sidewalk, people, and even motorized mobility scooters with no issues. He was 5 months old when we started, and he will be turning 2 in July this year. We still have mishaps, but it is so much better than it was.

    Also, him simply growing up and gaining more experiences helped immensely. Lots of the stuff he used to react to is old news today. So be prepared to stick with this for a year or more as your pup grows, and you may have to take a different route to avoid triggers when you start out. I would suggest obedience classes, perhaps geared toward reactive dogs, to help your dog get used to working around other dogs and people.

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  6. #4
    Senior Member gingerkid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Alberta, Canada

    Re: anxiety issues while walking??

    In addition to general "leash reactivity" it sounds to me a lot like he is just completely overwhelmed by the environment and can't cope with all the stimuli. Too many new smells? Not used to being walked on leash? Traffic noise? Scared of strangers? Frustrated by squirrels he can't chase?

    I recommend seeking the help of a trainer who has experience experience dealing with reactivity and anxiety using science-based positive methods.

    Snowball CGN NTD, American Eskimo Dog
    Ida NTD, Herdy Spitz Floofer

  7. #5
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2017

    Re: anxiety issues while walking??

    Thanks for all the feedback, I really appreciate it. I do think he reacts to the neighborhood more so than the park due to so many things catching his eye ... and other dogs barking at him is huge, maybe being in that loud shelter is a reason for this problem. He's not bothered by cars or people ... just animals/birds. It's like he knows that house with that dog is just up the street and he starts to get all sorts of anxious --- and not long after we come across a squirrel and then another house with a dog -- he's got great ears LOL.

    I will read over these suggestions and find a game plan.

  8. #6
    Senior Member Kathyy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Re: anxiety issues while walking??

    I just go out front and see how Bucky is doing that day. Some days we just walk back and forth in front of the house. When he stands on his back legs and lunges and all that I just wait him out figuring he needs to see/hear/smell whatever it is and moving on [hurrying him past might be the way he sees it] is counterproductive. For a really long time I got to walk 2 steps then wait. Last night at the start of the walk it was walk 5-10 steps between waiting so I guess he's getting the hang of it. I'm fortunate that he is quiet unless there is a person paying attention to him [aka staring at him] or a dog in sight.

    As for dogs barking behind fences? He is certain that dog is barking because there is another dog near by. Never does it occur to him that that backyard dog is barking at him, he looks around for that dog. Too silly. Ginger, OTOH, encourages backyard dogs to bark at her. She does little mutters and chortles under her breath so they hear her and start barking!

    You are so not alone!

  9. #7
    Join Date
    May 2017

    Re: anxiety issues while walking??


    I agree with the suggestions of the other posters but I'll be honest and admit I don't know about leash-sensitivity but something else crossed my mind.

    Have you ever noticed that you anticipate Scout reacting to a trigger (dog, squirrel, whatever) before that trigger cross your path? Some dogs are incredibly sensitive to mood changes or something you do subconsciously like walking a bit slower or holding the leash a bit tighter and it might just be that Scout reacts to those subtle changes in your mood/body language.

    I ask this out of experience: my 7 year old GSD/Collie mix is a shelter dog too and she's so sensitive I can barely make any noise above conversation level before she starts acting out (running off, hiding). Luckily she's highly intelligent so I have her trained to respond more to handsignals and tongueclicks than verbal commands.

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