I have a chinese crested powderpuff.. and he's a very sweet little boy. Good natured and eager to please. The biggest behavior problem we have with him is that he's very neurotic and anxious outside the house. When we walk him to do his business, if conditions are not perfect he is too distracted to go. People on the sidewalk, a recycling bin on trash night, God forbid a rattling air conditioner - he is not relaxed enough to focus on what he needs to get done out there. I guess I would describe it as a little hyper-vigilant. Aside from the frustration we experience, I feel bad for him that he can't relax out there.
We got this dog at 18 months from a breeder who felt he wasn't show quality, and we didn't have a sense of his neuroses until we got him home. The breeder lives in the country and I definitely think he wasn't properly socialized. We work on that every day now, and he is WAY better in the year we've had him than he was at first.

He gets daily exercise and has daily "city dog" sessions. I'm wondering if other people out there have any experience with a dog who is anxious outside the house. Are there any medications that can help? We do everything we can short of puppy Prozac already.

Any thoughts appreciated!
Thanks in advance,
Jen
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Jennyanniedots (Email Removed) said in
When we walk him to do his business, if conditions are not perfect he is too distracted to go. People ... rattling air conditioner - he is not relaxed enough to focus on what he needs to get done out there.

When stuff like this happens, how do you respond to him?

Matt. Rocky's a Dog.
Hi Matt,
Well, I try to stay positive (ie, not outwardly irritated or frustrated), but I do not reward neurotic behavior. I know not to try and "soothe" a nervous dog with head patting, etc. Rather, I try to ignore it. I try to encourage him to keep walking to get beyond (physically and psychologically) whatever he fixates on. When he finally DOES go or has a good, relaxed walk I get very pleased and reward that.
I have to admit, though, that occasionally I do get very frustrated, and I'm sure he can sense that when it happens. For instance - tonight as we walked down the sidewalk, he got spooked by a recycling bin in the dark and leapt into the street to get away from it. My instinct was of course to pull him by the leash, hastily and with a reprimand. I'm aware, though, that he can sense even the little signs, so I try to block out those feelings unless something really crazy like that happens. It's not usually quite THAT bad.
-jen
I have a chinese crested powderpuff.. and he's a very sweet little boy. Good natured and eager to please. The ... that can help? We do everything we can short of puppy Prozac already. Any thoughts appreciated! Thanks in advance, Jen==

Have you tried walking him together with another very quiet low key type of dog? If not, you could try doing that; maybe one of your neighbors or relatives has a very quiet small dog he could walk side by side with, which might help him calm down on walks after awhile. He is probably terrified from the different new noises and sounds that he hears when he is outside. That method also works with high strung thoroughbred race horses. They quite often will walk a quiet stable mate horse side by side with the race horse to keep the horse calm,
For instance - tonight as we walked down the sidewalk, he got spooked by a recycling bin in the dark ... get away from it. My instinct was of course to pull him by the leash, hastily and with a reprimand.

I do understand that instinct, as Zoe is sensitive and easily spooked and sometimes startles me. I try to go up to the "threatening" item and touch it, if possible, and encourage her to touch it. She trusts me enough that if I do it, she'll do it. I also laugh at her and am deliriously happy to see that threatening item: "A recycling box! Yaay!" Must seem bonkers to others, but it works for Zoe.

Catherine
& Zoe the cockerchow
& Queenie the black gold retriever
& Max the pomeranian
& Rosalie the calico cat
Jennyanniedots (Email Removed) said in
Well, I try to stay positive (ie, not outwardly irritated or frustrated), but I do not reward neurotic behavior. I ... fixates on. When he finally DOES go or has a good, relaxed walk I get very pleased and reward that.

That's all good, but I suggest that you go the extra mile and really party with him when he does handle such a situation well.
If you see something about to happen, distract him to you (toy, treat, praise, whatever works). After the situation has passed, up the ante and give him his most excellent reward. For example, one of my dogs likes food but likes tug better; so I'd distract him with food while the scary situation was nearing, maybe do some obedience stuff while it passed, and then play tug after it was all over.
I have to admit, though, that occasionally I do get very frustrated, and I'm sure he can sense that when ... I try to block out those feelings unless something really crazy like that happens. It's not usually quite THAT bad

Just be aware that with phobias it's way too easy to take backwards steps.

Matt. Rocky's a Dog.
For instance - tonight as we walked down the sidewalk, ... pull him by the leash, hastily and with a reprimand.

I do understand that instinct, as Zoe is sensitive and easily spooked and sometimes startles me. I try to go ... Catherine & Zoe the cockerchow & Queenie the black gold retriever & Max the pomeranian & Rosalie the calico cat

Watch out for the dread "Men at Work" signs. I was walking Yoda once when a car had hit the power pole about a mile down the road from my house. They had men at work signs out that were about four foot wide diamonds on stands. When Yoda saw it, he freaked out and refused to walk within about five feet of the sign, which involved walking around it in the street. The funny thing was, when we got around to the other side of it he dropped to the ground and slowly crept up behind it to sniff it. After that he was fine, but it was absolutely hilarious, apparently they can only see you from one side so you can sneak up on them.
Nick
"(Email Removed)"
Watch out for the dread "Men at Work" signs.

We will! That's a funny story. I know Zoe would react too, but their individual reactions are, well, individual! Zoe is very aware (and suspicious) of new things in her familiar environments, which is why I recently "introduced" her to a new little bird statue I had acquired, and carefully showed her where it was going to live.

Catherine
& Zoe the cockerchow
& Queenie the black gold retriever
& Max the pomeranian
& Rosalie the calico cat
If you see something about to happen, distract him to you (toy, treat, praise, whatever works). After the situation has ... do some obedience stuff while it passed, and then play tug after it was all over. Matt. Rocky's a Dog.[/nq]I WISH I could distract him or provide positive reinforcement with a cookie to keep him relaxed in these situations. Unforutnately, treats and/or toys are of no use outside the house. He's too distracted or anxious or whatever to even be interested in food! (Anyone else experience this?) The best I can do is give him some nice praise for a job well done, which I know he lives for. The problem is, I can't use that praise to distract him "through" the anxiety-inducing situation, since that would be rewarding the behavior.

All I can really do is reward a good outing. Sometimes, when we have to cross a main street and are forced to wait at a crossing light, I make him go through some of his tricks. The only ones he'll really do in those nervous moments is sit, paw, etc. The really basic stuff. So that's how I've tried to distract him. It still is not enough to really be a calming influence. It's like you can read it in his eyes - "Why on earth do you want my paw when the sky is falling!?" He wants badly to please me, but the saucer-shaped eyes and furrowed brow are unmistakeable.

-Jen
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