Owning an Anxious Dog

Everyone meet the loveable, goofy Teddy!

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There are so many words that describe Teddy with some being energetic, playful, and protective, but the one I find the most relatable is anxious!

Alec adopted Teddy when the two of us just started dating. Actually, I’m pretty sure he adopted Teddy the same month we met. I don’t remember who came first because we both showed up in his life around the same time. Alec always had his sights set on a German Shepard and when he traveled to southern Georgia to adopt Teddy that’s what he thought he was getting. Believe it or not, Alec either wanted a German Shepard or a Dachshund and I’m glad he went with the bigger dog! Ultimately, I was glad he went with a German Shepard because I had always owned big dogs growing up and my parents currently have a German Shepard, so I’m used to handling bigger dogs. Alec, on the other hand, grew up with was an 8-pound Bichon Frise named Freddy. While Freddy was definitely the cutest dog ever (he passed away from an old age earlier this year), owning an 8-pound dog is completely different than owning a 60-pound dog.

As a puppy, I would say Teddy looked extremely like a German Shepard and at the moment, I really thought Alec adopted a German Shepard. As the next few months passed, I began noticing some stark differences between Teddy and my family dog, Snickers. The main difference being their coat. Snicker’s coat is medium length (he does how chow in him) that is brown and black all over. Teddy, on the other hand, has a very short coat (you can’t even run your fingers through it) that is completely light brown. Teddy, however, has black fur only around his eyes and his snout, which is the reason for the breed’s name: black mouth cur. I began noticing even more differences within the first few months of having Teddy and I quickly realized that Alec did not adopt a German Shepard. Alec wasn’t upset because he already developed a bond with Teddy, and it’s not like he paid for him anyway! The only problem was, we had no idea what breed Teddy could be.

One day I turn to Alec and bluntly said, “I don’t think you adopted a German Shepard.” He knew I was right because most German Shepard’s tend to have longer coats and Teddy doesn’t. After a lot of research on Alec’s end, he finally found a dog that looked almost identical to Teddy and that was the Black Mouth Cur!! Alec and I had never heard of this breed until we adopted Teddy, however, this breed is a bit more common than we originally thought. Teddy’s breed originated in the United States for hunting and was actually the dog in the book Old Yeller! However, the dog breed used in the movie was a Labrador Retriever and Mastiff mixed.

It was wonderful to finally put a dog breed on Teddy. Although we found pictures of other Black Mouth Cur’s that looked identical to Teddy, we had a feeling he wasn’t a pure-bread black mouth cur because this breed typically has a lighter coat. After years of carefully looking at Teddy’s face and other dog breeds, we have an idea on the top 3 breeds in Teddy. The first breed is obviously Black Mouth Cur; he has all the resemblance of a Black Mouth Cur and their behaviors. The second breed we think Teddy has in him is a Boxer. We think this because of his short and dark coat, which Boxers tend to have. And lastly, we think Teddy may have a small percentage of Pit Bull in him. We believe these three dog breeds make up our beautiful mutt. One day, Alec and I would love to do a DNA test on Teddy to see what breeds he has in him because that will help us better understand him and his needs.

If you do a quick google search on black mouth curs the word that pop-up to describe them are energetic, fearless, and strong. The Black Mouth Cur is a complex breed because, while they are fearless and strong – which dates to their role of herding livestock, tracking game, and protecting the home – they also have a sensitive side. Black Mouth Curs do not respond well to harsh tones/yelling or punishment. This was a piece of information I wish I learned sooner because Alec and I have completely different parenting styles. He was the parent that would let everything slide while I didn’t want Teddy to jump on people and was more of the discipliner. While it was true that Black Mouth Curs don’t respond well to harsh commands, Teddy loves me so fiercely and knows that I’m the one in charge.

A Black Mouth Cur is not for anyone who is inexperienced with dogs. This CANNOT be your first rodeo because you will be in over your head and ultimately give the dog back to the shelter. I know that scenario happens more often than we think, and I believe it happens because people don’t have realistic expectations of what it’s like to own a dog, let alone a big dog with needs like Teddy’s. Knowing that the only dog Alec had owned in the past was a Bichon Frise, I kept warning Alec of the hard work it takes to own a bigger dog. I have to give Alec props because he was 100% ready to take care of this dog no matter what. No matter how many shoes Teddy ruined, no matter how many times he’s tried running out of the apartment, no amount of chewed tv remotes would deter Alec’s determination to love and care for this dog. Which leads me to the number one thing you need the most when adopting a black mouth cur and that is PATIENCE!

While you need to practice patience with any dog breed, you especially need to practice patience with a Black Mouth Cur. Teddy has been one sassy dog (he gives a mean side-eye) from the very beginning and I’m starting to believe it’s because of his breed. Black Mouth Curs are very vocal dogs and they will let you know when something displeases them.

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From the very beginning, Teddy was always trying to see how far he can take things. If you adopted a male Black Mouth Cur get ready to be sized up because they are trying to determine who is master. Once you show dominance and that you’re the one in charge, your Black Mouth Cur will be unbelievably loyal to you and your family.

And lastly, if you are not prepared to give your Black Mouth Cur enough exercise, they will rip your house apart from sheer boredom. Black Mouth Curs need to have a big backyard to run around AND one long walk a day. Because we live in an apartment, we make sure to walk Teddy multiple times a day.

Those were a few reasons why the Black Mouth Cur needs to have someone who is patient; however, it is important to remember that you will need patience with any dog breed because dogs are a big responsibility and you should never get one on a whim. Teddy has taught me how to be more patient in my life, particularly because he is such an anxious dog. While adopting Teddy, Alec was told that Teddy had a rough few months of life and we believe that is the reason he has separation anxiety. Anytime we would leave, he would give out the saddest whimpers because he did not want us to go and he didn’t understand why we were leaving.

I believe animals have the same complexity that humans have, and I believe that Teddy 100% has anxiety. I will never understand why people made it their calling to dictate what species have emotions or fewer/greater emotions than humans; how would we even possibly know that without being anything other than human? Before I get into a rant, let’s get back to Teddy and his anxiety. Over the years, Alec and I believe we found some extremely helpful coping mechanisms for Teddy and I want to share them with you all because if you don’t deal with anxiety personally you won’t understand the anxiety your dog is feeling.

Both Alec and I deal with anxiety, however, they are on different levels. While Alec becomes slightly anxious in certain situations, my anxiety has sometimes left me incapable of completing a task. Both Alec and I believe that Teddy’s anxiety leans a little closer to my level than his which has made communicating with Teddy more challenging.

There are a few situations where Teddy will start feeling anxious and one of those situations is whenever we leave the apartment. This stems back to his separation anxiety as a puppy, but that anxiety doesn’t really go away because we leave the apartment every day for work. I don’t know exactly what he’s thinking, but I know when we get home, he is SO happy to see us. I do wonder if he ever thinks we’re not coming back one day. I’m always the first one to walk in the apartment after work every day and when we finally lock eyes Teddy’s butt starts to lose control because of all the emotions he’s feeling inside he can’t contain himself. He’s my Mr. Wiggle Butt 😊

Because we must leave the apartment every day for work, I leave the tv on for him and play a REALLY long movie or music. Anyone in their right mind would go crazy inside a small apartment with no background noise or anything to keep them entertained. There is nothing for Teddy to do, it’s not like he can leave the apartment and drive somewhere. All he can do is sit around and nap or do nothing. Sitting in the apartment doing nothing makes him feel anxious because his breed is supposed to be outside all day. I believe putting on background noise for Teddy helps slightly. It’s no miracle cure, but it lets him focus on something other than the wall.

Black Mouth Curs are extremely loyal and affectionate with adults and children (they tend to play rough not realizing their own strength); however, they don’t tend to be friendly towards other dogs or strangers. This breed was made to protect the family home and are territorial animals and because of this, they may respond aggressively to perceived intruders or threats to the family. This perfectly describes Teddy but, his situation is a bit different. A few years ago, there was an owner walking his dog off-leash and the dog ran up to Teddy (who was on a leash) and jumped on him. Ever since then, he has never been the same around dogs and it has been a struggle to get him comfortable being around them. Anytime we see a dog, he makes this weird growl/whining noise and we can’t figure out if he’s feeling anxious because it’s a dog or if he’s feeling anxious because he can’t play with the dog. Before moving to South Florida, Teddy would go to dog parks with other dogs in all shapes and sizes and he was perfect around them. Once we moved to down here and a dog jumped on Teddy, he has not been the same. That and there is a small dog mentality here and I do believe Teddy feels other people’s negative energy towards him because of his size. Because of all these factors, we try not to take any chances, and whenever we see a dog on our walk, we immediately give Teddy treats. We want Teddy to associate seeing a dog with getting a treat or reward. This has been a slow and steady process, but after consistently doing this for the past 8 months, we are starting to get to a point where Teddy can see a dog far away and not react. If you think everything should have been fixed by now DO NOT own a dog because you are not ready to make the long commitment of fixing any type of behavioral issues.

Another thing we try to do with Teddy on our walks is to ground him with a sense of purpose. His breed is supposed to be the working type, and, on our walks, he isn’t being challenged the way he should be. So, we started handing him random sticks throughout the walk. It may seem silly or pointless to us, but that one stick makes him feel good. I think this is similar to how I ground myself while driving. I get very anxious while driving, and whenever I feel particularly anxious, I try to focus on things I can see, feel or touch. I will think to myself I can feel my steering wheel, I see two cars in front of me, the weather is cloudy and focusing on that instead of the incident that made me anxious in the first place. I think this could be very similar to how Teddy feels. Whenever he’s feeling anxious and he doesn’t know what to do to calm himself and that’s why we hand him the stick; that is his grounding. He is thinking to himself “this is a stick, I get to hold this stick, they want me to carry this stick and I will carry it as far as I can.” Most of the time, he likes to play with it and throw it in the air like a game.

Knowing how anxious Teddy can get, there have been some ways that Alec and I try to help. Like I previously mentioned, we will keep a movie or music on while we are gone from the apartment. Alec’s mom used to do this with their old family dog and I always thought it was peculiar. It just wasn’t something we did growing up, but now I think its genius! So far, he’s seen Black Panther, Lord of the Rings, The Aviator, The Godfather, and today I left The King’s Speech on. I know from the time I leave until around 11 am, Teddy has something keeping him occupied.

At night, we keep Teddy in a cage (don’t worry the cage is fit for a Great Dane, so he has plenty of room) and we keep a blanket with our scent on it, so he can have our scent to comfort him before bed. His cage is right next to our bed, but I know Teddy would prefer to lay in between. We try not to let him sleep in the bed with us during the week because he will lay horizontally and make our body ache the next morning for work.

Recently, we have been giving Teddy calming treats. Alec found calming treats online and we’re giving him two at night while we’re having dinner. I’m not sure if they are helping calm down his anxiety, however, it doesn’t hurt to try because we haven’t seen any negative side effects.

Teddy may be the reason for all my headaches, but he has also taught me more about patience than anyone else ever could! This made me change the way I communicated with him, instead of talking to him like he would finally understand me at one point I started to communicate more with my actions instead of words.

For example, whenever I come home with bags in my hands, he wants to stick his nose in to see what I have. After I let him sniff the bags for a second, he’s done with me and my bags and walks away. If he’s in the bedroom and I make a noise in the kitchen, he immediately starts barking because he thinks someone is at the door. Remember, Black Mouth Cur’s are VERY protective of their family and home so they will bark. When he runs near the door to see who’s there, I call him into the kitchen, make the same noise again so he understands where it came from and that it wasn’t the door after all. Black Mouth Cur’s will do anything to protect the people they love and that means barking at any type of noise. Just remember that dogs are there to protect you and they know that is their purpose so they will step up to the plate whenever they hear a noise. Of course, we know we are hardly ever in danger (knock on wood!) and that means teaching Teddy that some noises are not life-threatening. But because I can’t just tell him that, I have to show him.

Owning an anxious dog has made me a better communicator with animals and if that makes me sound like a hippie then so be it! I would rather study my animals to make sure I know what they’re thinking and feeling because I want their time here on Earth to be absolutely perfect. They have such a short time on this planet and they bring us so much joy they deserve to be understood by their owners and comfortable!

Sincerely,

A Simple Wildflower

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