Working with an Anxious Dog 2018 update

Working with an Anxious Dog 2018 update

Welcome to the new year…. 2018 will be the best yet !!!

Seems that I have some updating to do here:

For humans and dogs our brains work mainly on three things… O2, food and proper chemical balance. So, if your brain is not getting the right supply of any of these things your body will signal alert.  Behavior is really a result of all of your physiological functions working/ or not in concert.  You can not separate your body and your brain. You can not separate behavior from you health.

A few examples may help. When you come to Motley Dog Dog Training and we advise you see your vet. this is why.  Let’s say your vet says.. yep your dog has a heart murmur but, that wont effect their behaviour ….or hey the dog has thyroid imbalance but, that wont cause behavior problems… you need a new vet.  If your brain does not have proper blood flow it has problems and alerts the body to a crisis… depression, anxiety and a real need to defend and protect yourself will result. If and when this imbalance is corrected then most of the behavior will subside. You might ask.. cant you have a medical condition and a psychological condition at the same time. Well, of course you can. the point is that eliminating or doing a great job of managing medical problems is vital. This should be combined with training but, this is not your standard dog obedience training.

Look at it this way, if a dog has an injury, maybe it becomes more aggressive when touched. The more improvement to the injury the better the behavior.  However, the worse the injury becomes the more aggressive or broken down the dog will become.

So, if your dog has behavioral issues do a very good job of identifying and treating any underlying medical condition, first.  MDDT training will help but, is only half the solution. Remember if your vet tells you that yep your dog has a medical problem but, that is not the cause of the behavior ….. please find a new vet. Psychology has changed a lot since the days of Pavlov, Skinner and Freud.


Hope this is helpful.

Have a great new year!!!!

PS this is also true for you people out there.


Medical condition

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior, such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints, and rumination. It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events, such as the feeling of imminent death. Anxiety is not the same as fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat, whereas anxiety is the expectation of future threat. Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and worry, usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. It is often accompanied by muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue and problems in concentration. Anxiety can be appropriate, but when experienced regularly the individual may suffer from an anxiety disorder.

After doing a lot of reading on current research regarding Anxiety, i like the definition above. The problem with defining anxiety  is that it is often confused with ..anticipation, fear or insecurity.
My hypotheses for this intermingling is the fact that all of the aforementioned can lead to anxiety. As stated in the definition provided …..Anxiety is a medical condition. 1. step is to make sure that there is no underlying medical condition causing the behavior.
Examples are… heart condition, endocrine in balance, or just an injury that makes the dogs brain feel that it is weak and maybe unable to handle the situation presented.  In this situation, feelings of insecurity turn to fear and then to anxiety. Similarly, with anticipatory anxiety you are unsure how to behave in the given situation becoming more and more stimulated until you have anxiety. In this situation you maybe excited to meet someone and as the even approaches you find yourself becoming more and more excited until you become over stimulated and become anxious. Maybe a better example would be when someone meets a really famous person and they are “star struck”.  You have tagged this person, or situation with many positive attributes, hopes and dreams and when the moment actually arrives you brain goes fubar. Another hypothesis of mine is that anxiety is a battle between your fight or flight response. It would be a bit like having a sudden flood of two conflicting biochemical reactions. One telling you to run, the other to fight.
Do to this idea when working with anxious dogs I try to create a neutral situation at first. Once I have established neutrality, I work to guide the dog to the correct cognitive response.  I accomplish this through a kind of modeling technique and I work to model that behavior in as many situations as I can create.
Guiding dogs through these episode can be dangerous for you, your dog and those around you. This is not a do it yourself kind of thing. It is also very, very easy to make the anxiety worse. As a matter of fact during treatment there is a high probability that facing anxiety provoking situations will increase anxiety before improvement begins.
Hope you find Motley’s small discussion of anxiety interesting.
Here are a couple of notes of caution.
1. never use a “training collar” of any kind on an anxious dog.
2. there is no such thing as a training collar. The goal of dog training is to teach your dog not punish your dog. These are old school ideas that have seen there day.
3. I have seen people who always have a device around their dogs neck. If you are one of these people you arnt even doing it correctly anyway.
I am not trying to be a bad guy however, think about it, if you punish a dog so that they will not do something again in the future and yet you still have to punish them… are they learning anything? Just something to think about.
A wise someone once said if you keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result …. well you have heard that one, I am sure. 🙂
Always track the progress you are making with any technique. Not all techniques work for every dog and every handler.
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