Hi, we are Emma and Pippa and we also live with Josh, my boyfriend and Pippa’s other best friend. Pippa is a 2 year old Labrador crossed with a Lagotto Romagnolo and she is a big bundle of love. We got Pippa as a puppy on Easter, 2018 and it was so exciting. We are biased, but she really was the cutest, sweetest puppy we had ever seen! Pippa is the loveliest girl, she lays for a cuddle every evening without fail, but only after we have played with her toys (she knows them as her chickens!) of course. As friendly and playful as she is with us and our friends and family, she is actually a very anxious and wary dog. She is very wary of people she does not know, she will bark and hide behind us, she hates loud noises (mainly fireworks and motorbikes), she runs away from anything that makes a loud or buzzing noise in the house (the hoover, hair dryer and even our electric toothbrushes!), big dogs and suffers from separation anxiety.
What does your pet mean to you?
Pippa means so much to us that it is hard to put into words. She is our very best friend, she’s just like another housemate we talk to her like she is a human! She means love, silliness, play time, fun walks and company! We can’t imagine life without her. All our friends and family love her to bits because she is so friendly and funny. She is just a naturally lovely dog, so willing to learn and please and even though she is a whopping Labrador, she is a lap dog at heart and we love that. Because she is so wonderful with us, it is easy to sometimes forget that she can worry and be anxious, we work hard with her to make her the most comfortable she can be because we hate that so many things scare her.
How does your pet show they are anxious?
Pippa shows her anxiousness differently depending on the situation. If a new person comes along, she will bark and hide behind our legs. She will not approach new people or let them near her. If there are fireworks she will hide in her bed and won’t come out and shakes a lot, she has a crate with a blanket over (she is never shut in there, we took the door off) and that is her safe zone and we let her decide when she wants to come back out. If we brush our teeth, get the hoover out or dry our hair, she will leave the room and get into her bed until it has stopped. We noticed that when we use to get home and Pip had been in the kitchen, she would be panting and generally look stressed so we let her have the whole house when we go out and now she is much calmer and not stressed when we come home. If we are in a room with Pippa and the doors are closed, she will cry at the doors for them to be open, she worries when she cannot explore and see around the house. The only time she is happy being shut away is bed time.
When did you first spot signs of the anxieties in your pet?
Pip has been like this all her life, as soon as we got her home we noticed she was shy and wary of everything, so we took a lot of time and training to get her as used to things as we could. No matter how many people or places we introduced her to, she was always worried and jumpy, she does get comfortable relatively quickly, but it takes patience. Her wariness of big dogs wasn’t until one day, when we were on the park and I had Pippa off lead and 3 large dogs came running over, which spooked her and she bolted. The dogs had zero recall and chased her round this field, it was so distressing for her and us and made us so upset and angry at the other owners. I managed to catch her and lead her away, and shoo the other dogs away from her. Since then, she is super wary of big dogs.
How do these anxieties make you as a pet owner feel?
A little helpless and we wish we could do more to help her understand that there is nothing to worry about. We are careful where we walk and avoid busy places, it is too much for Pippa. We try and avoid large groups of dogs and people, so we don’t really take her into towns anymore or anything like that. We don’t feel restricted though, we can still do a lot with Pip, we just ensure we are going at the right times and to the right places. We stick to the country side, she isn’t happier than when she is out in open fields or hiking in the lakes! It just means Pip is always our priority and first thought, but we don’t think it should be any other way! It is also hard when people don’t understand, we get so many funny looks as people say “oh is she a rescue? has she had a bad start to life?” and we say no, I always feel like they blame us for the way she is. I wish people understood animals can just be naturally shy, anxious and wary – just like humanswhat people are thinking about us too!
What would it mean to you to help your pet cope with these issues?
It would mean a lot to us for many reasons, Pippa would fully enjoy herself everywhere she went and get less stressed out. We hate how scared she gets when there are fireworks and it would be amazing if there was a better way to comfort her. It would also mean when we meet new people, she would be more comfortable not to bark and maybe even give them a sniff. People crouch and lean towards her (as opposed to ignoring her like we ask them to), it is all very well intentioned trying to show her they are friendly, but it makes her worse so if we found a way to cope, it would make these interactions less stressful.
Why is it important to highlight these issues to other pet owners?
I think it is important for the two reasons I mentioned above: a) nervous dogs need time, people and dogs in their “space” makes them worse. If you ignore them, and slowly start with treats or even a game of fetch, the dog will make their own mind up about you and realise you and your dog friendly! And b) if someone’s dog is scared or anxious, don’t look down on them. We already find it hard that our dog struggles with a lot of daily things, without worrying.