When was the last time you felt worried?  Ashlee asks, Mishu answers

When was the last time you felt worried? Ashlee asks, Mishu answers

Dear Ashlee,

I’m always a little worried about unfamiliar things and situations. I think it comes from my rough puppyhood (before I was rescued). Do you have any suggestions for me, friends?



The Inside Story about Worried Dogs

While I wouldn’t say that Mishu is an anxious dog, she is definitely cautious.

What is the difference? When I think of anxious I think of dogs who are afraid of thunder or storms, or dogs who have extreme separation anxiety, or who pee from excitement. Mishu isn’t anxious like that.

But, like a lot of rescue dogs, we can sometimes see the evidence of past trauma. She’s suspicious of men outside of the family. She’s extra suspicious of strange men carrying things like sticks or big bags. She’s also cautious about anything new. When she first encountered stairs, she was afraid to climb them. Her first time we tried to take her out on a deck or balcony — she didn’t want to come.

We’re not dog experts, but in all of these situations we try to treat Mishu like we would anyone who’s scared. We reassured her and encouraged her. And eventually she gained confidence, was willing to try the new situation, and overcame her fears. Now she sits on the balcony/deck for hours every day, with her head on the railing, looking out at the world.

With people who worry her, say when we’re out for a walk, we do the same thing — reassure her, tell her, “it’s okay” and “shhhhhh” — and most of the time she’ll pass by without a sound.

Another way we see her past is around food — if we’re gone for the day, she generally won’t eat and drink until we’re back. If we’re away for the weekend and a friend stays with her, she’ll eat very little. This part is sad, but it also tells us that she’s a survivor.

She learned hard lessons as a puppy, and that survival instinct is ingrained in her. Even though she was still a puppy when she was rescued, she hasn’t forgotten those lessons.

We’d love to know what else we can do, besides giving her love and reassurance, to help her become more trusting and secure. If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

Btw, subscribe to Dear Mishu's newsletter:

💌 Mishu a question


  1. You know what, Mishu? After I was rescued and I came to live here with Mommy and Lexy, I was worried about a lot of things. I would run and hide whenever I heard a noise, and I was so afraid of plastic bags (probably from being in the dumpster.) I was lucky, though, because as time went by I became more comfortable with life. It was just a process I got used to. I hope you’re totally comfortable soon.

  2. Awwww, sounds like you’re doing a lot right! Rewarding for acting brave and confident can do wonders for dogs, too. Tiny increments are often enough–reward with “good dog” or treat or whatever just for having ears forward rather than slicked back/slinking backwards. Maybe teach a command “check it out” when something’s safe and plant treats under the strange object, etc.

  3. Hindy Pearson - June 29, 2018 reply

    My dog Jack is a rescue with a difficult past. We’re sure he was mistreated in his previous home, physically to a certain extent, and as a result he is “suspicious” and sometimes he can get anxious. Thankfully he is extremely food motivated, so I have had a lot of success helping him with leash aggression, anxiety in some social situations and the like. Jack is really cute so people are always trying to come straight up to him and pet him. I warn everyone to just leave him alone and keep their distance, and I do my best to catch them before they get too close as to make him nervous. He will go to people in his time, when he feels secure and that definitely helps.

  4. I am Jewish so it is in my nature to worry and if I did not would worry why I don’t worry

  5. The best remedy to fear of familiar situations is to make as many as possible familiar. Baby steps, checking out more things all the time. The more things you get to experience, the less scary each next one is going to be.

  6. My dog (mine is his fourth and final home) hates men in work boots. Has lunged at them. I have my suspicions why. Now that I know it, I am more cautions on walks and steer him away from them. (I’m not always fond either). I don’t angry at him. He has his reasons.

  7. I’m glad Mishu has overcome most of her fears, that’s terrific! Phoebe had major fear issues too & was terrified of men. We worked with her for many months creating positive associations, mainly using treats, with things & people she feared. She wouldn’t when I was away for quite awhile, but now she eats just fine all the time. It took time & patience but now she’s happy & confident. Mishu may always have residual fear but that’s ok as long as she’s happy & can function on a daily basis.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  8. I agree with your classification that Mishu is a cautious dog, which is hesitant to approach or do things. Cassie, my springer, was an anxious dog who would pant loudly, pace, and nudge me all the time when loud noises occurred. With an anxious dog, they usually say to not cuddle and reassure them since this reinforces the behavior, but to ignore it so they learn to ignore what is bothering them. I don’t know if this would work with a cautious dog or not.

  9. Kilo the rescue Pug also has emotional scars and can be reactive and anxious. Conditioning with treats and distraction can help. We are planing to try some natural remedies like Cbds( scents and clothes did not help). Kilo never refuses food lol.

  10. It sounds like you’re doing everything right to help Mishu. Patience is really important when dealing with someone (person or animal) who is unsure about a situation.

  11. muttsandmews - July 2, 2018 reply

    Our dog, Misha, was mistreated and abused before she was rescued. She was chained to a tree outside for the first 2 years of her life. She also has a difficult time with some strange men, not all though. We adopted her a little over a year ago and we try to make the overall experience of meeting a new stranger that’s a man a positive one, but I understand why she is the way she is.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to site top