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HELP!! I don't post here much, but read a lot of threads :wave:

We have a 1.5 year old shepherd/herding type mix maybe BC or Aussie. She is the absolute sweetest dog, loves every person and animal she's ever met. We adopted her at 9 weeks through a rescue. She has been anxious and nervous since we got her...not able to settle down, general antsy-ness. She is my 3rd dog, we also have a pointer/boxer mutt currently, who is very confident and well-behaved. Ive also handled many dogs as I used to work at a large boarding facility. So I have some knowledge of dog behavior and training.

My issue is complex, I know, but at this point I'm not even sure where to start. She absolutely loses her mind every time we try and go for a walk or try to take her somewhere outside our home. She acts incredibly nervous, scanning the environment by whipping her head in all directions, tucking tail, jumping at every little noise...and forget loose leash walking, she has this desire to just pull like a sled dog. (I assume she just wants to get home). She will try and jump on me for comfort, or run in nervous circles. She is literally terrified. She has been going for walks all her life (this fearful behavior was apparent when we got her, but has worsened over time), nothing bad has ever happened to her on a walk (other than her being scared by loud noises...but she's never been attacked by another dog or anything). We took her to multiple training classes (a beginning obedience, twice through a "Focus & Control" class...teaching the dog to relax in all situations, and a beginning agility class most recently). The focus and control helped a bit, but its extremely hard to train with her because she gets over threshold almost immediately. She is normally very food motivated, but once we leave the house she won't take treats, and in the rare time she does, she just about takes my hand off...not normal for her. I have considered talking to the vet about drugs to help her calm down, but haven't yet.

At this point, I have almost stopped taking her for walks altogether because I hate to see her so scared...and knowing I can't fix it just makes me frustrated and sad. The only way I have found to exercise with her is rollerblading...for some reason she gets in the zone when we go at a faster pace, and she can handle it. But, we live in MN and rollerblading is only possible in spring and fall due to summer heat and snow in winter. She doesn't get too hyper or unmanageable in the house, so its not really a problem if we have to give up walks, but for her sake I'd love to be able to take her when I take our other dog. Plus, we are active people and enjoy hiking/kayaking etc and want to include our dog.

Does anyone have any tips for helping her take it down a notch? Or good luck with anti-anxiety meds? If we could just manage it enough to get her to the point where she could actually learn, then we'd be getting somewhere. The trainers who we've used have suggested slowly desensitizing (with food...scary thing appearing = delicious food reward) but part of the problem is that she won't take food, and if she does its frantically snatched from my hand...I doubt she's even getting the benefit of it. The other part of the problem is that most of the time I have no idea what the trigger is...wind, distant car, a certain smell??? We try to walk in quiet places where there is less to scare her, but it doesn't seem to change her behavior at all. I will say I think there is some connection with the leash, like she feels trapped. We walk her off-leash sometimes in quiet, low-traffic areas, and that does seem to help a little. I have also tried a Flexi (I know...shame on me) but it did seem better. She's a very non-confrontational dog and doesn't show any interest in people or dogs that we pass on walks, but it makes me nervous to let her walk off lead unless we're literally in the middle of nowhere. I don't like passing off leash dogs (or dogs on Flexi leashes) no matter how well behaved, so I want to be considerate of others who might feel that way as well.

I think my next step is talking with the vet about drugs to help her calm down, but I wanted to see if anyone had any other suggestions first. I have also tried CBD oil, which seemed to help a little, but not enough to actually work with her. Maybe a higher dose?
 

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Look into anti-anxiety meds. What you're talking about - getting her into a mental place where she can learn - is exactly what they're for. My 4.5 year old BC has been on them for half her life. ZERO regrets. They didn't fix the problem, but after 6 weeks of letting them build in her system, she was able to relax enough to learn, and that alone was a night and day difference. At this point, my dog who was freaking out a everything is going everywhere, from public busy parks to agility trials.

https://www.dogforums.com/general-dog-forum/422457-medicating-molly.html

Might also read this though the presentations of the issues are different.
 

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In this case I would start over with training her to be outside and go very slowly. Don't move on to the next step until she's completely comfortable.

Start training her in the house in front of the door, then just open the door and keep training her in the house. Then step outside (keep her inside if necessary while you step just outside the door). Then have her step out with you, then take a couple of steps away from the door, etc. You get the idea. Not only will this be a nice, slow transition for her, you will also be able to see exactly where she starts to get over threshold. Go back a step and stay there for a while, then try getting farther away again.

It could take months just to get down the driveway, but that's okay if she's learning and getting better.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Look into anti-anxiety meds. What you're talking about - getting her into a mental place where she can learn - is exactly what they're for. My 4.5 year old BC has been on them for half her life. ZERO regrets. They didn't fix the problem, but after 6 weeks of letting them build in her system, she was able to relax enough to learn, and that alone was a night and day difference. At this point, my dog who was freaking out a everything is going everywhere, from public busy parks to agility trials.

https://www.dogforums.com/general-dog-forum/422457-medicating-molly.html

Might also read this though the presentations of the issues are different.
That thread was really helpful. It's great to see it working for someone, and knowing that my dog can make improvement and doesn't have to live like this forever. I will be making an appt with the vet about starting her on something. Meanwhile, I will try working with her on slowly moving out of the house :) I've thought about trying that, but I mostly get too impatient and just want to get on with the walk. But I'm sure it would be helpful, especially getting her to work with me. She has a terrible time focusing on me when anything else is going on.
 

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I agree, that level of anxiety may need meds. That sounds...kind of miserable. You will still have to train and desensitize with positive reinforcement, but the meds will really help take a good deal of the edge off so she can learn.

If walks are too scary for her...just don't. Find other ways to exercise her. Flirt pole, tug, fetch, teaching a new game. Anything. But continuing to go on the walks when she is so very stressed probably is not helping! Wait until you have some meds on board, and then you can try going off-property again.
 

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Because the behavior is escalating I would first say the fear is genetic. With that being the case it is unlikely a thing you can out train or fix. I would try medication. Talk to your vet.
 

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Update! we are into week 3 of Prozac...went for a walk yesterday around our block in the middle of the day (pretty quiet)...and she actually offered eye contact repeatedly and (gently!) took multiple treats! she has not been comfortable enough on a leashed walk to do this ever in her life! YAY!! hopefully she'll continue to improve so we can actually train �� Thanks everyone for the encouragement to get her on meds...I only wish I would have done it sooner!
 

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That's great that she's showing so much improvement! Just make sure you don't rush things, and take it slow and easy.
 
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