Anxious dogs


Active Member
Dec 18, 2007
Bournemouth, Dorset
Our old dog was anxious around small children and we never really dealt with it (just kept him away) resulting in a life long problem. His anxiety made him tremble within 10 ft of a toddler but he would also get very defensive and snappy/growly which obviously was an issue.

I now have a new dog, a Staffy, and i am very concious of not being able to get away with not dealing with issues! We have had Ruby a month (early days yet I know)

Whilst appearing outwardly confident and over excitable, she so isnt really. We have set some very firm but fair boundaries and rules and as a result she is settling down, understands what is expected of her and is bonding well with us (OK OK so Ive fallen head over heels with her and wont leave her alone!!!!) One of her things was when you called her in the house she would slink away as if expecting to be punished (we have never smacked her - any reprimands have been verbal or exclusion only). We were getting over this by being really enthusiastic when she did come, using treats etc.

We went to a dog socialisation class on Wednesday and it didnt go well - anxieties all came out in a flurry and when approached by several dogs she hid in a corner but got very agressive and when she snapped at a 12 week old bundle of fluff that was just walking by we were asked to leave (to go back when accustomed to a muzzle which we are doing) But as she was chastised (with a noisey stones in a can, and verbally) at the class, she seems to have reverted to her anxieties at home - slinking away again etc. I really feel like we were building some trust and then lost if again (although she is settling down again)

Any ideas how to proceed? I want a dog that trusts me (and I her) but I do need to be able to tell her off without her being anxious for the rest of the day! How do you build confidence in a dog?

I would really like to do agility with her so being able to be around several other dogs is important. We have introduced her to a few other dogs individually and it has been fine and we also have a puppy who she is very good with (she's covered in scratches - puppy has none!) We havent been able to do much socialisation with her as she was in season, but thats over now sowe can start going down the park etc.

Matchbox Milo

New Member
Aug 22, 2009
Dogs are meant to be distracted from any bad behaviour with a startling noise - i hope this is all they used the noisy can for - a quick distraction, that should have stopped as soon as it was given. Otherwise i'm not surprised the poor dog was startled.

Animals don't need to be verbally told off - it is all to do with Body Language. We forget that although animals reccognise our TONE of voice - they dont actually understand our English. To be verbally attacked by anyone, especially people they are not so familiar with, will obviously upset the animal. When an animal does wrong, the behaviour should be stopped - i.e pulling the dog away - and then issued with a "no" or whatever word or noise you use to help them reccognise they have done wrong, and put into the sit or lay position.

In all honesty the class doesn't sound very good - animal training should be approached calmly and sensitively - yes, okay, its not nice for the other dog to have been gone for like that - but it is also not nice for the dog or your confidence and self esteem going through something like that. Most dog training classes, certainly the ones my mum holds, understand that sometimes dogs ARE anxious, especially in a new environment with new people and new dogs - and make special arrangements for that. When we first had our yorkshire terrier carla, she was very much the same - she hid and cowered and snapped when people got too much for her simply because she was SCARED. but you shouldnt force the dog into any situation - if the dog hides, it should be allowed to hide until it is comfortable enough to come out - by forcing it out you will upset it further. it is also wrong for the other dogs to have been coming up to your dog like that - were they on or off the lead? i hope they werent off lead as new dogs can often bound over to other dogs without reading any signs. if they were on lead - the other owners should have been able to reccognise the anxious dog and give it some space

I would reccomend looking for a new training class, and speaking to the person that holds it before enrolling - discuss with them your worries and how its upset you and your dog the last time you went to a class. you both need a confidence boost, i expect, and hopefully a new trainer can put that in you. :) good luck


New Member
Feb 27, 2008
Find a class that knows how to deal with nervous dogs as the one you went to obviously doesn't. Muzzling a nervous dog, rattling cans at them and getting in their face verbally will have the opposite effect to the one you want and will destroy trust. My dog is nervous aggressive and at the class we go to, the trainer asks the other dog owners to make sure that my dog is given space by explaining she is not good with other dogs.

To build confidence, we've done a lot of basic obedience training focusing a lot on recall and heel. When she understands the command, my dog is given loads and loads of praise and a treat reward. I do this in the house at first, then move to the garden and then to the park as she then has to cope with added distractions. Every time she focuses on me, it's big time praise and a reward (it's costing me a fortune in dog treats:D). If I'm out and we come across another dog, she's asked to walk on. If she tries to lunge or bark, I will immediately stand in front of her to block her and ask for her attention to come back to me. If she doesn't, I completely ignore her, eventually she will look at me and then big fuss again. It's a very long, hard process but we are now starting to see the results, we have good days and bad days but we are now seeing a difference in her and I'm so proud of her for what she has achieved.

The right training class will give you the right advice and a programme, we found ours through an animal rehoming charity as our dog is a rescue dog. It may be worth contacting some of the animal charities or local vets for advice on suitable classes. It's a long, hard road but the results are well worth it - good luck & all best wishes.
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