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Learning About Anxiety from Your Dog

By Peter Goldenthal, Ph.D., ABPP

 

You can learn a lot about how to manage anxiety from a dog. I'll be writing about human anxiety and how to manage it in another post. This one is about dogs and their anxieties. Any dog older than ten or twelve weeks adopted from a shelter is very likely to arrive with his or her share of anxieties. The most common are fears of being enclosed (from being confined in a crate) and fears of being abandoned (sometimes called separation anxiety). There is a lot that you, as the new person in this dog's life, can do to help reduce these fears.

 

By the time I adopted Sasha, she had been in two shelters. The first euthanized dogs who had not been adopted within a set time period. The second shelter, a "no-kill" shelter, rescued her from that shelter and took care of her until I came along. So in the first nine or ten months of her life, she had been abandoned by her first human family, kept in a cage in a shelter in the city, then moved and kept in an (admittedly large) cage in a second shelter in the country. To say that she was anxious about being caged would have been an understatement. To say that she was anxious about being abandoned would have been an even greater understatement. 

 

I was determined to help Sasha recover from the traumatic start of her life and determined to help her be less panicked about being left alone. The techniques I used to help Sasha were simple: I kept her with me almost constantly for the first months of our life together; I whispered reassuring things in her ear. The goal, and the net effect, was to show Sasha that what had happened before was not going to happen again, not while I was around. I was in effect saying, "I know that some scary things happened to you during puppyhood and that people were not reliable, but the past need not determine the present or the future." Sasha gradually learned that she could trust me in ways that she could not trust her earlier attachment objects.

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Children, Empathy and Dogs

By Peter Goldenthal, Ph.D., ABPP

 

Empathy, the ability to see and feel the world from another person's perspective, is a crucial ingredient in all intimate relationships. Over 20,000 years, dogs have developed this capacity, some to a truly remarkable degree. 

 

Most children are naturally empathic. They can learn to be even more empathic and to have empathy even under trying circumstances. Those children who are lucky enough to grow up with a canine companion have a great advantage. 

 
Parents can also point out ways in which the family pet has empathy for its human companions; noticing when someone is ill, tired, or upset, for example. Parents can also help children to learn to identify their dog's moods and needs: when the dog is tired, bored and asking to play, or frightened and needing a comforting pet or snuggle.

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Eddie

By Peter Goldenthal, Ph.D., ABPP


Every child needs a dog. That's quite a dramatic statement. Does absolutely every child need a dog? Maybe not. But every parent should consider the possibility that their child needs a dog. 


There are lots of reasons why I feel so strongly about this. I illustrate two here, with more to follow:

 

  • Dogs are unconditionally loving and accepting

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A Dog in the Office? Why Not?

 By Peter Goldenthal, Ph.D., ABPP
 
About fifteen years ago, I began bringing Shira, my Portugese Water Dog, to the office, mostly so that she wouldn't be home alone all day. It soon became clear that she was exquisitely aware of the most subtle changes in the emotional temperature of the office. When patients were clam, she lay quietly next to me. When they were upset, she lay by them or licked their hands. And when there was a high degree of unexpressed conflict between spouses or partners, she paced. I thought I had stumbled on something unique until I remembered seeing photos of Freud's Chow, Jofi, and reading about how Freud would refer to Jofi in his interpretations. I am not aware of Freud referring to Jofi as a therapy dog or writing about animal assisted therapy. It seems clear, however, that he was ahead of his time in this as in other things. Read More 

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Help for dogs who are afraid of thunderstorms

One common question from dog owners is this: What Can I do About my dog's fear of thunder?

Fear of loud noises probably developed eons ago for a very good reason:extremely loud noises are often accompanied by dangerous events. There are two things to do when your dog cowers or shakes during a  Read More 

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What is Your Child So Worried About? (and what can you do about it)

High School students are anxious about college. Middle School students are anxious about the approach of high school. Both groups are anxious about relationships. Everybody knows that. But what do first and second graders have to be anxious about?

Quite a lot, as it turns out. When you talk seriously with children between five  Read More 

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How to Listen and Whisper to Your Dog part 4

People who are about to purchase or adopt a puppy or adult dog are first of all looking for a dog who has a strong desire to connect with people in general and with one or two special people in particular. Some dogs like everybody  Read More 

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How to Whisper and Listen to Your Dog Part 3



The path to understanding your dog lies in large part in noticing the little things that most people miss.

The fictional and famous Victorian detective Sherlock Holmes loved to talk about his methods. And he loved to chastise his friend Watson for seeing but not  Read More 

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How to Whisper and Listen to Your Dog part 2

To really understand your dog and to become your dog’s best friend , it’s very important not to make the assumption that dogs are all alike.


Making assumptions, especially assumptions about the causes of behavior leads to bad consequences. When I adopted Sasha  Read More 

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How to Whisper and Listen to Your Dog Part 1

As I was leaving my monthly dog trainers’ meeting, I had the sudden realization that training dogs to behave better is far too limited a goal. Your dog can do better than that. You and your dog can do better than that. You may be  Read More 

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