The Glove Compartment (and other scary things)

Issues - 1

You know your dog has issues when they completely panic when you open the glove compartment in your dashboard.  I mean really and truly panic.  It’s one of the most alienating and frustrating experiences to go out in the world with a dog that doesn’t act like a dog is “supposed to”.

Sometimes when I see dogs that walk up to complete strangers with absolute enthusiasm I can’t help but feel jealous.  Gwen, who I love dearly, is definitely not that dog.  She is sweet and fun and smart and my life is better because she is a part of it.  However, strange people, strange places, strange noises and whatever else she decides looks scary on a given day can be cause for absolute panic.  That may mean that she completely freaks out- barking and lunging so that my only option is to walk her away until she is able to calm down.  It may also mean that she completely panics and tries to escape.  They are both products of the same fear.

GwenLife with a nervous dog (if I’m doing my job) means being aware any time we’re out in the world.  At any moment I may need to reward her for not reacting to “scary things”, counter condition for the same, or call her away from frightening situations that she is too close to cope with.  To be honest, it’s pretty exhausting. A few mornings ago I opened up my glove compartment and my 20 pound dog ended up practically wrapped around my neck, shaking and trying to dig through the window to escape.  It took a half an hour to help her cope with it-  starting outside of the car she got treats for relaxed behavior and for every step closer to it.  Once we finally got back into the car I emptied my glove box and we spent the rest of our ride with it open as she ate treats out of it.  Now most times we get in the car I open it up, give her treats, close it and carry on with life.

Gwen and I subscribe to what GKC Co-Owner Carla jokingly calls the “stranger no danger” training protocol.  This afternoon a strange man came out of no where and tried to pet Gwen.  She didn’t like it, but she didn’t completely freak.  For her that is pretty overwhelming progress.  She even took treats from him.

GwenThat’s life with a nervous dog- progress is never in a straight line.  One moment she’s above and beyond my wildest expectations and the next she’s freaking out.  I have to take a deep breath, try to understand (even though sometimes it is truly frustrating) and figure out what I need to do to help my dog.  Because when it comes down to it my dog is just a dog.  She doesn’t understand the world we live in- or why she should react any other way- and it is my job to help her.  My dog has issues and that’s OK.

How do you help your dog navigate that crazy, scary world out there?  What issues do you and your dog still struggle with?


  1. Wesley Gordon says

    I don’t know if I should say “I’m happy to hear that I’m not the only one with this issue.” I know how exhausting and frustrating it can be. But, it does help to know that it’s not something I’m doing wrong. That other people have the same problems. I have 2 dogs. Turbo who is 14 years old. He’s a chihuahua jack russell mix. Then I have Buddy. Buddy is 11 years old and he is Turbo’s biological son. I’ve had Turbo since he was 3 months old and I’ve had Buddy since birth. Turbo is great with strangers. He doesn’t bark very much. Never has. He’s the complete opposite of Buddy. One night I moved the steps up onto the bed to the other side of the bed. Buddy went around and saw them then came back around the where they were and stood there whining like he didn’t know how to get up there anymore. I have to watch about throwing him treats cause he freaks out and I have to calm him down. We drove to the store the other day and my charger to my phone moved the wrong way and I had to ride all the way home with Buddy around my neck. Pretty much, if anything moves out of the ordinary he’s gonna freak out and please don’t even try rearranging furniture. He can’t understand that one bit. But even tho he is happiest when people speak just above a whisper. And, he’s more calm when things remain mostly the same and even tho I have to stop what I’m doing many many times to calm his panting and his nerves. He’s the sweetest most loving dog I’ve ever had. It would suit him just fine to be snuggled up next to me or in my lap all day long. I wouldn’t trade him for the world :-)

  2. says

    I come across shy, fearful dogs all the time in my agility classes. Agility can be a good confidence builder, so people love to try it to help their shy dogs. The biggest thing is not pushing them past threshold, and building their confidence at their own pace. For example, if they’re super afraid of the dog walk, I won’t have a student push their dog to accomplish the whole thing…no, I just want one paw, or a sniff, then they get the cookie and get to walk away feeling accomplished :)

    • says

      Hi Kama! Gwen enjoys agility classes and they have been great for building her confidence. It’s so helpful to have an instructor that encourages dog owners to celebrate the little successes for their shy dogs! I’m always careful to be sure that I don’t push Gwen to do too much too soon- and it makes watching her take on an obstacle with enthusiasm (when we get there) that much more exciting. :)

  3. says

    Gwen sounds like a really anxious pup! I hope that her training is helping her cope. I have a high anxiety kitty that growls when he even sees people (other than my husband and me) out the window. My other kitty loves everyone.

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