If you’re wondering what to do if your dog is jumpy or nervous, then I’m glad you are reading this blog, because a natural human reaction is usually the last thing a dog needs. We tend to treat dogs like children, and when a child is nervous or jumpy we would go to them, cuddle them and reassure them that everything is okay. A child would feel better about their concerns, feel loved and cared for, and would understand the explanation given to them in the language that they speak. A dog’s understanding is quite different, so read on…
Firstly a dog doesn’t understand English, so your reassuring words may as well be “Oh my goodness, they’re coming to get us, we’re all going to die, what shall we do?” so our well meaning attempts to make them feel better are more likely to make them feel worse.
Secondly, a dog understands that survival is a pack thing, so will go with the leader of the pack’s decision. If your dog runs and hides and you go after them, you are confirming that they are the leader because you have followed their decision, so not only are they right to be concerned, they are also responsible for keeping you safe too!
A dog would reassure another jumpy or nervous dog by showing them they they are not concerned themselves at all.. They would not make any movement towards the nervous or jumpy dog, they would give them their space and remain calm, that way the dog can work out of its own accord that as no one else is nervous, maybe everything is okay after all. At times when there is an actual danger then the leader of the canine pack would show the others what to do – whether it’s a case of flight, freeze or fight.
If your dog is often jumpy or nervous then it’s quite likely that it sees itself as being responsible for keeping your pack safe. As it is a dog living in a human world, this is a big ask, as dogs can be easily scared by day to day elements of our lives; the postman, the hoover, aeroplanes and so on… You can remove all of this anxiety by proving to your dog that it doesn’t have to be in charge. A good place to start is Jan Fennell‘s book The Dog Listener, which is available here in my shop. And you can seek the help of an expert to teach your whole family what to do if your dog is jumpy or nervous, so you can resolve it. Get in touch if you’d like a quote for my help, I am a Dog Listener and cover Essex and parts of Kent, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and London.