Friday, February 29, 2008

Social Anxiety-Not Just For Humans!

Social anxiety, not something you would think would come up when talking about a dog or cat. But, it definitely happens.

My sister has a German Shepherd puppy. She already has a German Shepherd/lab mix that is 15 years old and the most laid back dog that ever lived!
She had taken this cute little puppy to the vet two times before and everything went fine. She was cute and cuddly and everyone just loved on her.

So, when she went to take her German Shepherd puppy to the vet that third time, she was shocked at the way she reacted. Her German Shepherd puppy was now almost sixty pounds. Much bigger than her older dog. And, she didn’t look like a sweet little puppy anymore. Well, actually she was just a big baby at home. You would never have suspected she would react like she did at the vet.

Her 60 pound puppy barked and growled and had to actually have a muzzle put on her. My sister left the vet that day in tears. Mainly because she was so afraid at the fact that she did not KNOW what her puppy would do. At home, her puppy is truly a big baby. She plays and holds her head down when she has done something wrong, and she even whines like a big baby. No kidding, I have heard it. She is very vocal.

Her puppy was suffering from social anxiety. The vet suggested that they take her to an obedience school. Well, they decided that they would try a few things first. They decided that they needed to get her out and around people more. After all, she was a country dog, not used to city life. They took her on walks in the park, had her meet the neighbors, took her for car rides and had people come over to their house.

I have to say I was very intimidated by their big puppy, but I finally learned that she was just finding her bark and that if I said her name, she would calm down and everything was fine.
Dogs handle social anxiety in many different ways. For example, my puggle, Peanut, was not as vocal as my sister’s dog. Peanut actually was scared to death of people. She would literally shake in her skin. I hated to see her go through this. Every time someone would come in to the house, or we would go to the vet, she was just so scared. The saddest part of the whole thing was that she desperately wanted the attention, but she was just too scared.

So, we followed the ideas my sister did with her dog, and started to take her out more. We live down the street from a park, so we decided to make it a family affair. We purchased a pet stroller, bought a new collar and leash and some new “special” treats, just for our walk times and prepared a schedule for our new ventures out.

We weren’t sure how she would react to the pet stroller, but she absolutely loved it! The kids were so excited to be able to push her, and we took her out at the park, so she would finally get used to being around others.

She finally has warmed up to people, and we also started having people come over more, so she could see that they were not there to harm her. I am so happy to see her happy when people come over. And, the pet stroller was a success. She gets so excited when I get it out, because she knows it is time for one of her adventures.

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