Nervous Behaviour

What Can I do for Nervous Behaviour?

Dear Pippa,

I was hoping you could help with my dog related query. I've recently rescued a greyhound. She is an ex-racing greyhound and makes a wonderful pet inside the home. When I take her outside however she in incredibly nervous. She starts to shake when we go near people and really just acts like she wants to go home. She is now even becoming fearful of the back garden.

When I phoned the rescue sanctuary they said we were the second home for this dog. I'm now very attached to her and would like to be able to help her through her nervousness. Is there anything that can do?

I'd be grateful to hear any advice.

Mark-Anthony

Dear Mark,

Your experience is very common for re-homed greyhounds. Greyhounds make wonderful family pets but due to being kennelled with dogs for most of their lives they can be under-socialised and nervous with people. Your greyhound will need time to adjust and start to trust you and her new environment. Becoming a 'pet' is a dramatic change in her routine and she has already been unsuccessfully re-homed once.

Initially start with the garden; you could try feeding her there so she starts to build up positive associations for the outdoors. You could try playing with her and put some toys into the garden (especially if you buy something small and hare-like for her!).

Take her favourite toy or treats out on a walk with you. When she is by your side constantly talk to her and reassure her that she is doing well. Greyhounds usually walk very well to heel, if she sees something that she is nervous of ask her to heel at your side offering her a treat or the toy; distracting her from the cause. If you allow her to focus on the object, she will probably become worse. Just confidently distract her attention back to you.

Greyhounds make excellent jogging companions and she might feel more confident outside at a slightly faster pace. If you are able to take her for a short jog, it could help her as she would have less of an opportunity to become nervous and help with your fitness level at the same time!

Be patient with her but also firm. If she sees you as a confident leader her behaviour will be guided by you. If you are not anxious or stressed, over a period of time, she will feel much more secure.

Can I Stop My Dog Being Depressed?

Dear Pippa,

We recently took on a rescue dog, Charlie, from a local animal shelter. He is very well behaved and a lovely dog, but seems very quiet and lethargic, almost comparable with depression. He is not scared of people but just does not want to eat much or go out at all. Is there anything we can do to help him as he really doesn't seem to enjoy life?

Please help!

Sarah, Folkestone

Dear Sarah,

It is difficult to give you advice without knowing any details of his background. Was the animal shelter able to shed any light on his previous life? If he is not scared of people it doesn't indicate that he has been previous mistreated, however, rescue centres themselves can be terrifying for shy, sensitive dogs and he might have been in there for a while. It was probably a very stressful experience for him and he now needs to rest so that he feels safe again. It is not unusual for dogs to sleep excessively for the first few weeks while they shake off past traumas and adjust to the new home.

Alternatively, he may be unwell. Stress weakens the immune system and it is not uncommon for ailments to be seen soon after arrival in a new home. It is a good idea to get him checked out by your veterinary surgeon just in case.

Maybe he is a naturally shy, submissive dog, even though you say he is not afraid of people. It may be that he has only lived with other dogs rather than people, or may have spent a long time on his own. Being surrounded by unfamiliar people who want to play with him, may be a little overwhelming. Try not to overcompensate by insisting on cuddling him. I know it will be hard, but try to back off slightly and let him choose to come to you. Over time, when he does start to come to you, greet him warmly, he will soon start to realise that those bad times are behind him.