Do you have an over excited almost hypo dog? Do you know that COULD be masking anxiety? Often, I’m contacted to help with a dog that’s hyperactive, disconnected, terrorising the owners and absolutely disconnected and struggles to listen to the owners. As we begin to work on the dog, anxiousness in the dog starts to pop up in certain situation. This is completely normal!
But if you aren’t aware of it, that your dog could get what seems like worse before better you can feel frustrated, fed up and feel like the whole process isn’t working. But why does this happen??
Well anxiety and excitement neurologically are one in the same, it’s our emotional perception that determines how we view that sensation. As we remove the excitement we remove some of the control and shift it into the owners hands, this can make the dog feel uncomfortable, less control and well anxious because it’s the only sensation next to excitement he has ever really known.
I’ve been talking about loose leash walking a bit lately and it’s because it’s a great way of discovering whether a dog has underlying anxiety that the owners hadn’t seen before.
Here is a good example when it comes to leash pulling. Now this doesn’t apply to EVERY dog that pulls on lead but majority of the time when I am contacted about a dog for leash pulling, as I start to dig a little other problem come to the surface. This is completely normal, and something just about everyone does we get focused on the biggest problem we have with our dog, we forget to take a step back and look at the whole picture and don’t realise other factors are most likely impacting the biggest
problem we face. I see this more times than not.
The process goes like this I will get the owner to show me how a walk with typically go, the whole sequence is important and I’ll touch on why in a moment, they will usually prompt the dog and let them know they are going for a walk, typically they won’t touch the lead until it’s time for a walk, place equipment on dog, the owners already anticipating the dog is going to pull their arm off (emotional energy at this point between the two is high) and then the dog is off dragging the owner out of the door. The disconnect is clear, but what is happening emotionally with the dog, I mentioned before how anxiety and excitement are neurotically similar it’s emotional perception that will determine how the dog perceives it. Anxiety stems from the feeling that we are not in control. When it comes to this way of walking the dog is excited amped up, but he is very much in control of this situation he is leading the way and his silly human is having a hard time keeping up haha.
We bring the dog back inside and start again, showing him the new way of walking, what I typically find as we get out the door with us calling the shots, the control has just been shifted to the owner and the dog is feeling less in control with the situation. His eyes with begin to dart around at the slightest noise as if he is waiting for someone to jump out and scare him, he begins to become worried and you can clearly see as we progress down the driveway at what point the rest of the world becomes over whelming, that’s when we get that disconnect as the dog begins to try and regain control in a way that is familiar and safe. It quickly becomes clear that the leash pulling hasn’t been the dogs biggest issue all along.
It’s a sequence I see all the time, excitement or hyperactive, as we start to calm or shift that it flows into anxious energy as we work through that, building trust and communication it then flows into a calm state of mind, because anxiety and excitement live so close together this is why it’s important to minimise excitement elsewhere in a dogs day to day life until we can show the dog appropriate situations and outlets for that kind of emotional state.
Usually the more control the dog feels he gains through excitement and hyperactivity the more it will mask his stress anxiety or fear, now some dogs are just crap on lead. Once we teach them the loose leash walk they are perfectly fine.
What is typically happening to those who’s dogs are struggling with anxiety the owners just don’t realise it. The owners are cruising down to class lessons with their dogs in hopes to solve their one problems and learn loose leash walking, going home and finding it all falls apart. Your dog might start to become reactive on lead, or becomes even more jumpy or reactive then before then you have an underlying issue of anxiety and you can do all the loose leash walking practice in the world but if you don’t work on shifting that mindset from hyperactivity to anxiety to then calm, you’ve got no hope in truly helping your dog, owners will go back to class and express they are still struggling unable to truly put their finger on it so the trainers tells them they just need more practice. Owners become frustrated and begin to blame themselves and they give up, this sequence happens all the time and sadly it’s the dog that despite the owner wanting to do things different ends up stuck at home feeling pent up and frustrated unable to get out and see new sights and smells. When you live in an anxious or excited state being cooped up adds to that problem.
With anxiety and excitement living close together, and you’re constantly feeling a degree of anxiety with no way to relieve it sometimes you have to force yourself to be hypo just to get through the situation. I love working with anxiety because I know it so well, I suffered from it majorly as a child and into my early adult hood having multiple attacks a day every day for almost half of my life, any situation where I could flick the switch into behaving overly excited or hyperactive I would, it made living through that private hell more bearable, and as I have watched dogs over the years I was amazed to see how similar they were in there methods of dealing with and coping with anxiety. I couldn’t continue living life that way and was determined to change it, through that process and owning an incredibly anxious dog, I know anxiety quite well and am very passionate about the issue especially with more dogs and more owners struggling with this very problem, a lot of the time completely unaware of it.
This is why many trainers will tell you, to keep your dog as calm as possible, not to have over the top greetings, not to fuss over your dog or encourage them to be over the top. This is not to say they can’t ever express how happy they are this is to encourage you to pay closer attention to your dog, IF you are having problems with him IF you are really struggling in a few areas try to take a step back and have a look at where else you could help him to be a better dog.
As always if you have any questions or would like to know more please feel free to reach out I am also more than happy to have a chat x