When you have an anxious or reactive dog you might have people tell you that your nervousness or [random personal quality] is the problem or a part of the reason your dog misbehaves.

These often unsolicited opinions are usually well meaning. After all, that person is calm and confident and have a well behaved dog, so there’s your proof!   *Insert dramatic eye-roll*


A Valid Point

It is easier for a dog to relax when they are being handled by a relaxed person.  However many nervous and high strung people seem to own well behaved and calm dogs.  So what gives?  The truth of the matter is that your relationship with your dog is two-sided. Your dog’s behaviour affects you just as much as your behaviour affects your dog.

You Likely Did Not Start Out Anxious

The very first time you walked your dog, were you anxious?  Probably not. At some point, your dog likely did a weird thing and you thought “hmm… I’m not sure about that”.  Then as your dog’s behaviour worsened, you became more anxious. YOU developed a Conditioned Emotional Response to seeing other dogs/people/garbage cans, and perhaps even to walking your dog in general.

Give Yourself a Break

Really, cut yourself some slack. You wouldn’t be anxious if your dog didn’t have a problem. You being anxious makes your dog’s problem worse… which makes you more anxious. This is not your fault.

So what now?  Recognize that you and your dog are a team. Train at a place where you both can be successful. We talk a lot about training at a distance where your dog can be successful, but that is just one piece.  In order to progress, we must start from a place where you and your dog are OK. If either part of the team become anxious to the point of being over-threshold, the team cannot progress.   Start slow. Build confidence in you both.