Fearful dogs

I thought it might be useful to share my experiences of having a adopted a dog who came with several fears. Many dogs seem to have come from puppy farms or other environments where socialisation may have suffered so this seems to be a common issue. Also it seems some pups are very sensitive and one incident at a crucial time can lead to fears developing.

In the early days, Muffin, was scared of many things both in the home and outside. Some of her fears we didn’t really understand such as other dogs because she would at times actually seek out a dog that worried her and bark at it instead of avoiding it. With a lot of advice and help, we started to use counter conditioning techniques around scary things so we would give her treats if she saw something which scared her. The idea being that they will start to associate the scary thing with good things happening. High value treats work best. As this became second nature, we started to see big changes. Generally speaking, she is rarely upset when in the house. She is also okay with most traffic, horses, cows and bikes.

We still work on other dogs, noisy vehicles such as motor bikes, and traffic on a wet or dark night. We found it helpful to avoid the scary things if possible but deal with them if confronted, We cannot avoid traffic completely as we have to walk a short way along the road to get off road. Also we have learned to weigh her mood up. At times she can be a bit more anxious and we will avoid any triggers if possible. Other days she seems more relaxed and does well. Yesterday she met several dogs without a reaction.

I think we will always have some fear issues but with time and understanding they are extremely manageable and impact very little on everyday life.

There maybe a dietary aspect to reactive dogs which might be caused by stress in early development. It is the seratonin production that may be affected and this is what calms and chills us out. The human and canine research on the trytophan protein and insulin regulation is interesting. Unless your dog has a cereal intolerance it might be worth looking at a lower protein plus cereal diet. As most kibbles fall into this group you have plenty to choose from. Giving a small high carb treat an hour before an expected event should trigger the insulin and lower blood sugar levels as this can reduce seratonin production before the stress happens. Giving such a treat to a dog when in the high stressed state may just increase blood sugar rush. Use a meat or cheese treat when they are actually hyper. Please post if you observe any affect.

Interesting, and food for thought. She has mostly been on cold pressed food but has recently been having natures menu. I have some nutriment on order but one of the things I will be monitoring will be mood and behaviour.

I have to say, she seems much calmer in general lately so it could just be that she is maturing and settling down. Feeding raw doesn’t seem to have caused any changes in mood as yet but I will be monitoring and will try a lower protein food if necessary. She does have a tendency to itch at times and I worry about the impact of baking so am not that keen to feed kibble.

Whereas the Little Cav, whilst not a fearful dog in the the way described above, was nervy and jumpy, with a tendency to try to hide behind me when faced with anyone or anything new, the whole time he was fed on dry foods, both kibble and cold pressed. Since changing to Nutriment which is zero cereal and far higher protein, he has become Mr Laid Back and will approach anyone he meets, human or canine, with a wagging tail.

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That is really good to hear George. I am hoping the high protein, will suit her. She is pretty active anyway and will happily come on a long walk.

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