Anxious Dog. Permanently Hypervigilant. Pants. Paces.
The smallest thing sets anxious Cas off. If he settles for a moment, just the intake of breath from someone is enough to cause him to leap to his feet again. Then he rushes about, mouth wide open, panting.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier may settle again – briefly. Then a sound from outside starts him off again. When suddenly alarmed, his response may be to charge at somebody, mouth open, and jump on them – usually the young man.
No aggression until the other day.
The lady’s adult daughter made a sudden sound of some sort as she sat down. Cas, who had been lying on the floor, flew at her. This time he made a snarling noise and the young lady was scared. She pushed him off. She felt he may have bitten her.
Despite his out-of-control and anxious state, he still managed to inhibit an actual bite. They may not be so fortunate another time.
It’s not good for any dog to live in this kind of permanent state of anxiety any more than it is a human.
A major trigger is the noise of young children and barking dogs next door, particularly when they are out in the garden. Cas rushes about, agitated. Because he doesn’t actually bark, this may go on for some time.
Being so jumpy, anxious and on edge affects his whole life and that of his family too.
‘Stress Bucket’ permanently full to the brim
Cas has been anxious and excitable since they picked him up as a puppy, three years ago. His mother may have been the same. They love him dearly and the incident with the daughter was a wake-up call.
Helping him means changing some of the things that they do. By not stirring him up they may feel it’s less kind and more boring but playing down times of excitement and arousal is the way to go.
In the long run, dropping such things as constant ball play on walks will help him to be more settled. He comes home in a more wild state than when he leaves. A calmer dog will be less anxious and able to cope better with life. Sudden things will set him off less.
Helping him become less anxious
The plan requires some changes in Cas’ routine which he may find hard to start with, but they will work through it. Like many anxious dogs, he needs routine so there must still be certain reliable anchor-points during the day.
They will do all they can to talk quietly to him, to move slowly and avoid sudden movement and noise where possible.
They can start the day off more calmly and be calm when they come back home. They will control the garden and neighbour situation so that they can immediately deal with any anxiety and distress.
Connection between food and anxious state
Cas is very overweight. Cutting down on his food will surely help along with improving the nutritional quality. We know from anxious humans how closely the stomach is associated with mental well-being.
Hunting and foraging for his food around the garden will be very beneficial to Cas’ mental state. This should also help to exorcise the garden from some of the things that currently spook him out there.
I don’t see Cas as an aggressive dog at all. He is a permanently anxious dog that simply ‘loses it’ when so aroused that he can’t handle himself.
If they calm him down (maybe with veterinary help) and consider the ‘trigger stacking’, I can’t imagine a repeat of the incident with the daughter.