Any other anxious owners out there?
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Thread: Any other anxious owners out there?

  1. #1
    Member MuseTorment's Avatar
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    Exclamation Any other anxious owners out there?

    Does anybody else in the forum cope with anxiety? Yesterday I was with my local trainer and he pointed how tense I was all the time and how dangerous that could come to be around Miúra, my new 4 month old pup, who's a dominant dog. This made me very concerned yet again about owning a dog that can easily overrun me in the near future.

    So my question is more directed at nervous people? How do you walk your dogs when in this state? How do you cope? Are there more tricks to stay calm so the dogs also feel secure? (maybe camomile tea? xD) The trainer litterally had to tell me to think of a happy moment or something I'd love to be doing and just focus on that, not on the dogs (I was walking Miúra at the same time as a random dog he brought along to help me socialize her). Because with only 4 months and barely 1 week of knowing her she's already dominating me and trying to protect me from other dogs...
    I know my irl problems need to be addressed but I have no possibility of going to a psychologist or anything of the sort. Slightly despair moment right now... v.v




    Tróia, the trojan (mutt) dog!
    Miúra, the black (border collie) sheep!

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  3. #2
    Senior Member cookieface's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    Are you anxious about anything in particular? Are there steps you can take to alleviate those concerns? For example, I have a fearful dog and worry about close encounters with people and other dogs when we go out. Having a second person with me to act as a "look out" reduces my anxiety. Having a plan for how to deal with situations that may arise is helpful, too. With my fearful boy, I always have a plan B; if there's a dog approaching from the left, we go to the right. I walk in areas where we can create distance if needed. When going to class, I let the instructor and classmates know that he needs space.

    If you're generally anxious, you might try meditation. Paul Owens discusses getting into a calm, relaxed state of mind in his book (I think it's in The Dog Whisperer) before training. It's a little hokey - he talks about his time at an Ashram - but it's helpful. There are general books on meditation, too.

    I'd also stop thinking about your puppy (or any dog, really) as dominant. She's not; she's an untrained, young puppy who doesn't know what is expected of her, and has more energy and excitement than sense right now. If she's reacting to other dogs, it's unlikely that she's protecting you. It's more likely that she's either excited and wants to play or is fearful and is trying to make the other dog move away from her. The "links for leash aggressive and reactive dogs" in the Training section has good info on managing dogs who need extra attention on walks.

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    Member MuseTorment's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    Overall I'm anxious about people and how they'd perceive me. It's stupid but it's something that I've always had really ._. But I think it's generally how my life is going, no real good thing coming my way so I bottle up everything. I used to walk Tróia as that outlet but it apparently just made her a big ball of hyperactivity and now with Miu it can turn into maybe aggression?

    Thanks so much for the book recommendation! I've also thought of yoga... need to look into this maybe? Bah! I'm so lost and the worse part is I'm even more anxious about the walk now x.x




    Tróia, the trojan (mutt) dog!
    Miúra, the black (border collie) sheep!

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    Senior Member NaimaandMe's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    Obviously, getting some therapy and/or possibly medication would be very helpful. I know that anxiety can be very debilitating. Are you not able to get help because of financial issues? Often there are local agencies that provide low-cost/sliding-scale therapy.

    My son has some anxiety issues that have gotten quite bad at times. He's a teen, so I prefer not to have him take anti-anxiety medications if possible (they can be so addictive), but I gave him some Valerian root pills to try and they seem to help him quite a bit. And yes--meditation, yoga, just general getting exercise, eating well, and getting a nice dose of sunlight as often as possible are all very helpful.

    I'm sorry I'm not actually addressing your issues with your puppy, but it's true that the best way to help her right now would be to find ways to help yourself. You deserve to feel good about yourself, and calm, and happy. Things can and will get better.

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    Senior Member CptJack's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    I have panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I also had PTSD.

    Straight up, I got on meds and got therapy. I'm not perfect, no, but I'm a lot better. I owned dogs before meds and after and while I did okay before, the difference I see is enormous. I still get tense and anxious sometimes and I can watch that affect my dogs, but since it's not constant they learn to deal pretty well and come back easily. The dogs I had before meds and therapy? Were on edge all. the. time. They'd blow up and bark like crazy at everything - because stuff like a knock at the door would panic me so they'd react super hard to it. Or noises outside or - Basically, my triggers became theirs. There was no diffusing their stuff when *I* would react to it. No telling them to chill out when I was an anxious, tense, wreck.

    This set of dogs? They are actually relaxed at home and only blow up barking if something is actually going on and it's not frantic, it's 'yo, look at that thing'. And one of this set HAS anxiety issues herself - like on meds for it, actual issue. Her, at her worst, were a lot like my other dogs LIVED. I didn't see it then, but hindsight? Yeah.

    I... don't think it's possible to lie to the dog well enough for them not to notice. Reading your mood is what they do. So my suggestion is actually just... treat the anxiety. It's hard, but it's worth it.

    Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. Roger Caras

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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    I am so anxious and my stronger willed dogs tend to behave that way as well. I know exactly where you're coming from. Sometimes it helps me to go into Momma Bear Mode. If I'm focusing on keeping my baby safe it makes me more confident and I can quiet my hands a little. You have to be careful that it doesn't turn into more nervous energy though. Sometimes for me it was translating as leash tension.

  9. #7
    Member MuseTorment's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    Thanks for the input guys <3 At the moment my life isn't at its best, the anxiety comes from all that.
    Regarding my pooches though, I've started a pack-walk activity which is on Saturdays, it's basically a walk through forest and hills with lots of other owners and their dogs and a trainer. I went there last Saturday and it was amazing. I was so anxious at first because of being the newbie, Miúra was barking like crazy, surely sensing my leash tension as well; but one correction from the trainer and she was good to go, sniffing butts with huge dogs, pitts, shepherds, huskies! It was awesome for both of them but specially for me! It's every Saturday at 11am.
    And tomorrow I'm paying for a 30 min session each for socialization. Miúra's the one who needs it the most obviously (at 4 months almost) but I'm doing 1 session for each of them :3




    Tróia, the trojan (mutt) dog!
    Miúra, the black (border collie) sheep!

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    I came out of the military with extreme ptsd. I didn't go out in public unless I had to. Got a shelter dog and taught her how to watch for me. I was also going to lots and lots of therapy though. But in the meantime, maybe give your dog a job? For example, if we were stopped, I taught my dog to stand behind me and watch. Your dog is obviously picking up on your emotions, so just teach her what you want her to do when your feeling a certain way/doing a certain thing. Feeling/doing A=dog doing Z.

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    Senior Member PatriciafromCO's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    I give up, (surrender) you will never have control of the animals, you will never out power them they will always be faster and stronger then you.. That said.. here is my examples

    People say all the time a horse will take advantage of you if you are weak. I'm not a horse person and I don't have a clue but I know my guys , I have Clydesdales .. No win situation at all times with me when you think of size and physical strength. Easily take advantage of me and blow me off. They don't, they the complete opposite they help me and they look after me to keep me safe. I work with them, we learn together, spending time together all the basic's of being patient and fair and praising. They want to work with me.. With out their will to want to with me or for me.. I would have nothing. The saying about a horse that will take advantage of you is a horse that has learned not to want to work with you and is looking for the first opportunity to dump you and get away from working for you.. Am so proud of my Johnny .. he had to have blood drawn for the first time in his life.. He didn't care he stood there with me still and calm just like any other time not even after the prick of the needle and needing 4 viles of blood he was fine to just stand there.. Vet asked how he would do, and I said I didn't know.. Johnny is what he knows ..

    Don't teach them to struggle or fight with you as their first foundation of interaction ... Don't win the battle but loose the war.

    I am ok with knowing I have no control and that is why I always focus on building a willing worker, and teaching detail skills to work together with.



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  12. #10
    Senior Member Canyx's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    Quote Originally Posted by MuseTorment View Post
    Yesterday I was with my local trainer and he pointed how tense I was all the time and how dangerous that could come to be around Miúra, my new 4 month old pup, who's a dominant dog. This made me very concerned yet again about owning a dog that can easily overrun me in the near future.
    I am sorry you had this experience! With all due respect, I would recommend looking for a different training. Dominance theory as your trainer is using it has been debunked and it is not scientifically valid. Dogs don't try to 'dominate' their owners. Dogs do what works for them, simple as that.

    Here is an example:
    Dog is jumping all over owner and owner is struggling to push dog away, saying "No!" or "Off!"

    Untrue statement that may cause further conflict: You are too tense! Your dog is being dominant and if you continue allowing this behavior your dog will overrun you.

    More factual and helpful statement: Your dog is jumping up for attention and you are inadvertently rewarding her by touching her and talking to her. Try turning and completely ignoring the dog (jumping no longer works in getting attention). Now when your dog is calmly standing or sitting, mark and give her a treat! (being polite works, dog will do it more)

    I can't speak to your anxiety issues and I hope you are able to find help for that soon. But working with a 'trainer' who perpetuates baseless advice and techniques will probably not help it, and will probably be detrimental to the relationship you are fostering with your dog. 'Dominance' mindsets always create this idea of conflict. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm willing to bet the trainer is using one or more of the following: firm reprimands, leash pops, prong collar, choke chain, shock collar, pulling or pushing the dog around. Here's the thing... Methods like that can actually add MORE stress to some dogs and make them more 'hyperactive' (read: flighty). Training can be something that is fun AND effective for both the dog and owner. I always say when training is done right, it should feel easy. A better trainer can help you achieve better timing and technique... It has nothing to do with becoming more or less domineering.

    Soro the lab mutt - approximate birthday: April 22 2006

  13. #11
    Senior Member Moonstream's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    I would agree that it sounds like maybe this is not the trainer to be working with. Social dominance in dogs is an incredibly complex concept, and something I have great academic interest; I am currently completing a bachelor's in science, but do have plans to go to grad school for ethology, and this is one area of the current research with which I am most familiar.

    First, I think it is important to note that there is a different between the popular definition of dominance (which often has to do with what could be called "social power"- whether or not the dog acts in a way that the human considers desirable, or listens to the human, and may also include certain personality dimensions) vs the actual scientific definition (which has to do with the relationship of two animals in regards to a specific resource- the "dominant" animal would have priority access to that resource, while the "submissive" animal would give it up to the dominant one). Dominance relationships in a scientific sense exist between pairs of animals, and may or may not be able to be placed within a larger hierarchy.

    Unfortunately, there still persists a "popular" definition of social dominance in dogs that follows along a faulty understanding of how wolf pack society is structured, and further assumes that dogs mimic all aspects of wolf social behavior. The assumptions go something like: wolves live in a linearly structured social hierarchy where the "alpha" wolf rules all; the pack is in a constant state of competition for rank, the level of control the alpha has over other pack members related to the social health of the pack, and the alpha regularly must exert his dominance over others through violent displays that involves things like forcing other pack members to the ground in submission. These assumptions about wolf behavior are rooted in some studies done in the 1940's (the first studies that ever looked specifically at wolf social behavior), that observed captive packs. We now know that captive vs wild packs display drastic differences in regard to social behavior, largely owing to the fact that one of the main components of wild wolf social behavior- voluntary dispersal from the pack, or leaving the pack- is not an option in captive packs. As a result, captive packs tend to be much more violent.

    It is also very important to keep in mind that we now have hard evidence that indicates certain differences in social behavior of wolves vs dogs, even under similar circumstances. Beyond that, there is significant evidence that dogs are, ecologically speaking, a very different animal than the wolf, and therefore it stands to reason that there will be drastic behavioral differences. Where wolves are a social apex predator, dogs have largely evolved into the human niche, meaning that even as feral dogs, they tend to rely a great deal on humans (garbage) as a food source.

    On some very recent keystone studies done on feral (wild) dog packs, there has been some social dominance hierarchy observed, but it does not follow along the wolf pack model on a number of key points, and it does not tend to be violent in the way that captive wolf pack social relationships so often are. In companion dogs (those that live in homes) we have some information about dominance relationships, and again I think it is not appropriate to draw parallels between the behavior observed in these studies and those observed in captive wolf packs. In terms of how social dominance in dogs applies to the human component, we have very little hard information. What we do have are a number of studies that indicate that dogs relate differently to humans than to other dogs. They seem to understand very clearly that we are not dogs. While I don't think we can say conclusively that social dominance plays no role in dog/human relationships, we also certainly can't say it does. Personally, I think that it falls somewhere in the middle- yeah, it sometimes might, but for the most part, we don't need to concern ourselves with it.

    Dogs are incredibly complex animals- they have an emotional and cognitive capacity that has only recently started to be acknowledged. They are not the basic, instinct driven animals that people have made them out to be for so long.

    Speaking specifically about anxiety...

    Like one or two other posters, I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. My body experiences inappropriate panic responses. Sometimes, this means that I will go into a fight-or-flight state of mind without any trigger (ie, a panic attack); usually, it means that something that would create a brief moment of alarm in another person leads to a full out cascade of panic in me, because my body doesn't usually shut that response down once it realizes that the danger is gone (ie, an anxiety attack). Because I am constantly experience heightened panic responses, I tend to have a much higher "normal" level of anxiety than someone who doesn't.

    I'll echo that medication and therapy can (and have for me) been great helps. I will also say that, in my specific case, I have found that spending time with anxious and/or fearful dogs has helped as well. My belief is that dogs can also develop anxiety disorders, and this is most often what leads to aggression and reactivity problems.

    Yes, it is hard for most dogs to share their life with a human who is anxious. In some dogs already predisposed to anxiety about the world, this may create aggression/reactivity issues. That doesn't mean that it wouldn't have happened with someone more grounded, that it is the wrong home for the dog, or that something is wrong with either the dog or the human.

    The reality of (true) anxiety is that you can't just press it down and get over it. It takes time to develop adequate coping skills to do so. First, with things that you have cause to be anxious about, I recommend thinking of worst case scenarios and making a plan. I work with dog reactive/aggressive dogs, and am always extremely worried about the possibility of a dog fight because someone else doesn't have control of their dog. In the case of us walking and coming across an off leash dog, for example, my plan is to keep moving at a quick but normal walk. I train a verbal emergency U turn to the cue "this way" that means turn with me and move quickly in this direction. I would give a verbal warning to the owner, and if it was not adequately heeded, I carry citronella spray on me that I would use. If that does not work, I might resort to more drastic measures.

    Overall, I think it is extremely inappropriate for a trainer to tell you that your anxiety is going to ruin your dog. Part of a professional trainer's job is dealing with people, and it is one of my biggest pet peeves when trainers don't understand that. If you are working with a breed that is going to struggle with this (even the most temperamentally solid guardian breed, for example, is more likely to have issues with a nervous handler than a typical retriever), then I think the answer is keeping both yourself and the dog in mind during training. Make notes of what you two can do successfully now, and what you cannot, and then make small, realistic goals for how to work your way back up to the things that you're not having success with now. Don't turn it into "we should be able to X"- turn it into "we can do X" and "we will work on being able to do X+Y".

    Hope that helped in some way!

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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    I feel like PTSD Service Dogs, ESAs and therapy animals would be less of a thing if dogs consistently overran or became protective of people with anxiety. Don't feel like you have to medicate yourself just to train your dog...that's a personal decision, not a prerequisite.

    I worked in a kennel and even had a few (embarassing) panic attacks during work...most of my dogs did nothing and some of them would approach me and try to lick my face. I would usually excuse myself for a few minutes until I could calm down but my dogs were actually probably better behaved during my panic attacks than any other time I was working (sad.) I had a few really badly behaved dogs actually really help me pick myself up.

    If you find that its your dog stressing you out, try teaching your dog a stupid trick for a little while. I taught my dog paw, wave, high five, roll over, spin, and the names of his toys on days when I was spiraling. May not have addressed the issue but it made me feel better and my dog liked it.

    ETA: the panic attacks I had at work were mostly related to drama between myself and my coworkers.
    Last edited by LennyandRogue; 01-14-2017 at 06:21 PM.

  15. #13
    Senior Member CptJack's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    Just like everything else with dogs, how successful a dog will be as an esa for anxiety is individual. Some dogs feed off emotions in negative ways - they pick it up and reflect it, or just stresses them. Some dogs respond by trying to help. Some dogs don't notice.

    Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. Roger Caras

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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    Quote Originally Posted by MuseTorment View Post
    The trainer litterally had to tell me to think of a happy moment or something I'd love to be doing and just focus on that, not on the dogs
    Thinking of a happy moment is good - as visual as possible. Try recapturing that happiness. While doing that, do controlled breathing. Mentally count to 7 while breathing in, count to 7 breathing out. (or any number, the idea is slow breathing). Practice doing this throughout the day/night. Are you religious? Praying is also very good. Do the same kind of controlled breathing while praying (you could do it so each word in the prayer goes with either an inhale or exhale). Breathing is very important in dealing with anxiety.

    Also, consciously don't worry - just be with your puppy. If you find yourself worrying, exhale the thought away. Tell yourself you'll worry about it later.

    Hope that helps.

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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    Quote Originally Posted by CptJack View Post
    Just like everything else with dogs, how successful a dog will be as an esa for anxiety is individual. Some dogs feed off emotions in negative ways - they pick it up and reflect it, or just stresses them. Some dogs respond by trying to help. Some dogs don't notice.
    I'm convinced human emotions are a neutral stimulus for most dogs and they learn over time that certain emotional states mean food/attention/play and others mean time to hide until mommy calms down. Most of my daycamp dogs were probably just confused and stopped what they were doing because they weren't sure what was going on. The ones who came up to me were mostly terriers and livestock guardians who tend to be more keen to explore new things anyway.

    Rogue has always offered a reaction of climbing up on me and repeatedly slapping me with his paw until I'm happy again, which I've been working towards redirecting so he lays across my lap instead. (It is funny though.) My other dogs have varied a bit. My husky has tended to press his head into my chest hard. I encouraged that the first time he did it and worked on making it consistent. My terrier mix used to curl up next to me. She apparently did this for my mom too. That dog had been a stray before and was afraid of a lot of things so she had more reason than most to worry about unstable humans. Our lab spaniel mix would sometimes cuddle but mostly she would kind of be like "OK lol see you when you're feeling better" and go entertain herself.

    Parents had a pom when I was very young and he used to climb into the stroller with me and kiss me if I started crying. They even took videos of it, lol.

    My coworker from the kennel had Bipolar Disorder and she ended up working at a different kennel that specializes in problem dogs...if anything she's better at handling those dogs than most.

    I think this whole "anxiety travels down the leash" is a myth...your hand is traveling down the leash, not your emotional state. Dogs are great but they're not mind readers.

  18. #16
    Senior Member CptJack's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    I'm not, because I've owned a lot of different dogs and their take away and response to moods are all different. I've literally had no repeats. Some? Get anxious if I'm anxious or upset or panic attack. Some get excited and more hyper. Some are oblivious. Same thing with all emotions - I'm angry and the responses range from 'go hide under the bed' to appeasement behavior to being over stimulated to absolutely not seeming to care at all. Same thing with being sick, or sad, or in pain, or depressed, or -

    Honestly, think about it. Do all dogs respond to stimulus or environment factors or all people the same way? Or do some dogs ignore the vacuum, while others chase it/play with it, and others are fearful, even after being exposed to it 3 times a week since infancy?

    same thing.

    Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. Roger Caras

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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    Are they hiding from you because you're angry or because you're yelling at the phone and stomping around? Are they getting excited because you're watching a funny youtube video and laughing or because you're happy?

    That's what I'm talking about. Dogs respond to behavior, not internal emotional state.

    Happy thoughts are all well and good but as a functioning crazy person, dogs seem to like me well enough even when I'm not so happy...because I can still throw a ball and deliver a treat and scratch the sleepy spot. The key isn't to not have negative emotions around your dogs, it's to learn how to say your feelings in the dog voice so your dog hears how much fun you are when you're sad.

  20. #18
    Senior Member CptJack's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    Quote Originally Posted by LennyandRogue View Post
    Are they hiding from you because you're angry or because you're yelling at the phone and stomping around? Are they getting excited because you're watching a funny youtube video and laughing or because you're happy?

    That's what I'm talking about. Dogs respond to behavior, not internal emotional state.

    Happy thoughts are all well and good but as a functioning crazy person, dogs seem to like me well enough even when I'm not so happy...because I can still throw a ball and deliver a treat and scratch the sleepy spot. The key isn't to not have negative emotions around your dogs, it's to learn how to say your feelings in the dog voice so your dog hears how much fun you are when you're sad.
    Depends on the dog!

    Because I am not a robot, which means that SOME of my dogs take BIG, BROAD, CLUES to notice a change. And others notice that I sit more quietly than normal. Or move more tensely. Especially the agility dogs who are trained even more to respond to more non-verbal and subtle cues like the direction my feet are pointing. I'm rarely stomping around or laughing out loud. I have a pretty even keel, but if you think there are no changes in behavior based on mood, even when you try, you're wrong for most people.

    How you carry yourself, your intonation, which muscles are tense, the fluidity of your movement, the pitch of your voice, how quickly or slowly you speak - everything, changes at least a little bit, even when you (general you) try not to let it.

    And dogs DO notice and respond to sincerity.

    Well, a lot of dogs. Some pick up more subtle things than others.

    But again, dogs have evolved with us for a long time. Their ability to read our body language and cues is enormous and has been studied quite a lot. They're good at it. They do notice.
    Last edited by CptJack; 01-14-2017 at 10:31 PM.

    Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. Roger Caras

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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    Yes but I'm trying to explain from the position of a person with a cocktail of mental illnesses that it really hasn't affected my ability to handle dogs even though I'll often excuse myself rather than continue working if I'm really panicking, and I know others who work professionally with dogs who have similar issues. For the purpose of reassuring OP that yes, it's possible to handle a dog when you have an anxiety disorder. Even a dog with Issues.

    Also restating the importance of saying whatever obnoxious thing you're thinking in the dog voice. Works for me.

  22. #20
    Member FirstTimeDoggie's Avatar
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    Re: Any other anxious owners out there?

    When I first adopted my pup the stress of it sent me into a tailspin of heavy anxiety. I carried a lot of that anxiety on walks because I was worried about what we may encounter, what might scare my very freaked out rescue dog, if he would jump on/bark at my neighbors, get enough exercise, literally anything. Once I realized that my stress was probably contributing to his stress I started stressing about stressing too much. I found that what helped me the most was having a walking buddy. I could talk to my buddy and relax into conversation and actually enjoy myself. The pup would have two sets of eyes on him which eased my stress. And the more relaxed I was, the more he seemed to enjoy his walks too. The more I walked with other people, sometimes neighbors and their dogs, sometimes I would just beg a friend to come over for a walk, the more relaxed I became on walks as well. Now I enjoy walking with others but feel very confident walking him on my own too.

    I know it sounds silly but the less you think about your stress the less stressed you'll be. Find some activities that your dog really enjoys doing and just try to relax into them, focusing on enjoying your pup's company. The group hike you took sounds incredible! I'd love it if I had something like that in my area. I would take advantage of that as much as possible! One of the nice things about walking with other owners and their dogs is that you can see all the dumbo stuff the other dogs do too and feel better about your own dumbo dog
    Danzig 3/25/16

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