Avoidance isn’t cheating when it comes to anxious dog behaviour!

It’s a common idea that dogs should be able to cope with pretty much anything. That training and behaviour work should be enough to achieve our goals. And in theory, that could be true, but why waste so much time when the problem lies in the environment. Here’s why avoidance isn’t cheating when it comes to anxious dog behaviour!

Dealing with other dogs

Lets’ take a dog that doesn’t cope very well in social situations. They like their friends, and don’t bother with other dogs mostly. But they get really stressed out when unknown dogs approach them. They like a quiet walk with the people they love, they definitely don’t want to be sociable or play with every dog. Is that so wrong? This dog will hate the parks where people let their dogs off lead. Even if the other dogs aren’t bothering him, he’ll be stressed out by dogs that run near him.

So what are your options? You could spend weeks trying to desensitise your dog to off lead dogs, he could learn to tolerate dogs running near him, and he could even learn enough restraint to put up with new dogs sniffing his bum. Or you could simply choose a place he might enjoy without all that extra work. It sounds like a cop out, but if you were choosing a gym to join and you preferred a quiet, women’s only gym. Would you try to desensitise yourself and go to the body builder gym anyway? Or would you just choose the quieter place?

Cafes and Restaurants

Some dogs love visiting cafes and restaurants, but many don’t. Especially if they can’t do the things they are used to. For a dog, it might feel like heaven to be snuggled up at home with you at coffee time. It’s quiet and safe at home, plus their toys are there, and they can please themselves. The cafe doesn’t allow dogs on the furniture, or to bark or play, plus it’s noisy and there are other people and possibly other dogs there too. What would your dog prefer, if they had the choice?

Again, we could spend hours teaching a dog to “go to place” and desensitise them to the strange cafe noises. We could teach them self restraint and to settle, but if your dog would rather be playing with his toy at home, maybe it’s not worth the effort. Or maybe, some cafes and restaurants are better suited to your dogs personality than others?

Watch on YouTube 5 Steps to a take anywhere dog

Guarding your space

The same principle applies to guarding the house and garden. Years ago I had a client whose dog roamed the shared garden during the day. He had started to act aggressively towards people that entered the space. But training a dog how to behave when people arrived is a tricky thing to do when you aren’t always there to enforce the new behaviours. Far better to bring the dog indoors and prevent access to the shared space.

It doesn’t have to be a whole garden; restricting access to certain places in the house can dramatically reduce guarding behaviour also. Every territorial dog will have a set of key spots they like to monitor. Or maybe he would appreciate a more solid fence, no more visitors from coming and going at will, and frosted glass in the front windows so he doesn’t spend all day worrying about potential intruders. The alternative to all this, is to spend weeks working on new behaviours and teaching a dog to resist urges.

Separation Anxiety

Moving beds and restricting access to certain areas of the house can play a big part in relieving separation anxiety too. A big empty house can feel scary to an anxious dog, especially when they are home alone. Whereas a small, cosy space, away from windows and doors, can be reassuring.

Using a day care, or enlisting a dog walker, can help too if your dog struggles being alone for long periods. In theory, most dogs should be able to cope with up to four hours home alone. But breaking the day up can be effective in reducing anxiety, and not just in the short term. And it’s much easier than spending hours training a dog to cope better, so worth a try before embarking on a long term behaviour plan. If nothing else, it might reduce the amount of work you have to do!

Whatever you are working on…

These are just a few examples, there are many ways in which we might be able to help our dogs without going down the time consuming training and behaviour route. Changing routines, and managing a dogs environment could be a big part of reducing anxiety.

Are you struggling with your dogs behaviour?

Private Dog Behaviour Consultations are currently available in the greater Dundee area. If you are looking for help solving your dogs behaviour and training problems, then please get in touch!


I have more than 15 years experience solving all kinds of canine behaviour problems, at home and in rescue. A bad experience with a old fashioned dog trainer inspired me to learn more about dog behaviour, and it is because of him, that I wall never use harsh methods when training and rehabilitating dogs.

I work privately with clients in Dundee and the surrounding area with dogs of all ages, breeds and issues including anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity.

In 2009 I was proud to publish a book about dog behaviour and training. How to be the Perfect Pack Leader (by Caroline Jenkins) remains popular today and a follow up is expected very shortly.

Articles: 138

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *