together solutions for
fearful and anxious dogs
At Together Dog Training, when we work with fearful or anxious dogs, we work with the whole dog. This is because we know that addressing all aspects of a fearful dog’s life produces the best outcome. Whilst behaviour modification to change how your dog feels about what upsets them is extremely effective, taking a holistic stance will greatly encourage your dog’s confidence. The use of positive reinforcement training empowers your dog to make choices about their behaviour. Ensuring your dog has opportunities for mental and physical enrichment also contributes to their emotional well-being.
Living with a dog who is fearful or anxious can feel very confusing, upsetting or worrying. It may impact significantly on your lifestyle. For your dog, living in a state of fear or anxiety, just like people, can be very debilitating.
We take great care to ensure that you have access to the most up to date knowledge so that you will understand the what’s, why’s and how’s of your dog’s behaviour. We only use scientifically proven behaviour modification techniques that have superb track records to effect change without harm or that put your dog into situations beyond their comfort zone.
Frequently Asked Questions
“What is fear?”
Fear is the desire to create social distance.
Fear is the feeling or emotion of wanting to get away from a perceived threat – wanting to escape, to get away – to get distance. If your dog is restrained in some way or fleeing is prevented, your dog may escalate to making “the frightening thing” go away.
In dogs, just like us, that feeling results in behaviours that are species specific reactions – flight or fight.
Imagine you’re a gazelle, you approach a water hole for a desperately needed drink. Something catches your eye at the periphery of your vision. You don’t know what it is, a shrub twitches. What to do? Carry on to get your drink, have a think about it for a few seconds? No! Too late! You should of run.
All animals including us, are prone to being fearful – it’s a survival trait that has continued through evolutionary time. The unfearful, the bold don’t survive. So, it pays to be fearful, even if you’re wrong – so you can go back another time to the watering hole, but you have survived.
When a dog is afraid of something or someone, they can express this in two different ways.
Flight – I’ll go away
A dog making themselves small, hiding, cowering or freezing in position
A dog turning away from the “thing” and fleeing
For our dogs, they may be prevented from fleeing by being confined or attached to a lead, they can’t get distance to feel safe. We might not recognise their need for distance, we might not recognise what our dog’s body language is telling us. Punishing any of these warnings signals is, as Dr. Ian Dunbar says, “like removing the ticker from the time bomb”. A dog that is afraid, if they can’t get away from the “scary thing” may use a more aggressive display to get that distance or they can learn over time that a good offence is the best defence.
Fight – You go away
Warning Signals called the Threat Sequence
Our dogs communicate their need for distance by using warning signals. We might see our dog freeze in position, stare, hear growling, see our dog snarl or snap or bite. Some dogs give lots of warning signals, some less and some zoom from lower levels to escalation very quickly.
“My dog seems to be anxious about everything, what can I do?”
We are very experienced with dogs that have generalised anxiety. Generalised anxiety may come about because your dog has inherited a fearful disposition or become sensitised to their environment indoors or outdoors or both. Sensitisation is a learning process, in which a dog, continually exposed to their fear becomes more fearful. The fear spreads like a cloud to encompass all kinds of stimuli in the dog’s environment. Fear is particularly pervasive and generalises easily.
“What does advocating for your dog mean?”
Part of our work is to help you to understand how your dog feels, that they are not being naughty or difficult, they are frightened. We teach you the advocacy skills, the scripts to use and how to explain to family or friends that it is vital for all of us to help your dog feel safe in their world.
“I need help with my dog, what should I do next?”
Give us a ring or fill in our Contact Form. We are very experienced at working with owners who may be upset or distressed about their dog’s behaviour. We’ll have a telephone conversation to get a broad outline of what’s going on with your dog, give you emergency guidance if necessary and then we can set a date for your first visit.
We work through a range of assessment procedures to get to a detailed analysis of your dog’s difficulties – the what, the why and the how to change it. We carefully consider how your dog’s behaviour is impacting you and what interventions we can make in the short and longer term to resolve the problem or range of difficulties, so that you are able to enjoy life with your dog. The Assessment Consultation is a key part of resolving your dog’s difficulties. This is followed by a written Report which summarises our conversations and outlines recommendations for training or behaviour modification.
Training and Behaviour Change Sessions
Following your Assessment, you will have a very good picture of the work that can help your dog. You will have a clear outline of the sequence of your training or behaviour change programme that is needed to resolve any difficulties. Each programme is highly tailored to you and your dog’s needs. Any training techniques are modelled for you and we always make sure you know what to do and how to do it. You will be fully supported between sessions by phone, text or video conferencing. For very difficult cases, we can work with feedback every 24 Hours, some clients like this level of support especially when beginning their programme. Behaviour change programmes are organised in a step by step style, so we only ever move at a pace that is comfortable for you and your dog.
Our long term aim is for you and your dog to continue living happily together. Following our Assessment and Sessions you will have a great understanding of dog behaviour and feel you have the tools and knowledge to form that fabulous partnership with your dog. Because we know that behaviour is always influenced by environment, our dogs can change as they grow up or age or we can undergo changes to our lifestyle too, we check in with you at regular intervals. Once a together dog, always a together dog.