What is the Most Nervous Breed of Dog

The Most Nervous Breed of Dog is ….

I’ve been asked this question a bunch of times, and there is no real answer. A dogs propensity or lack of nervousness in a given situation, is really dependent on how well we socialized our dog and our own ability to understand the canine mind.

There are many contributing factors that will determine our successes or failures in the area of nervousness or fear aggressions with our dogs. One of the most important factors will be the size of your dog, every medium to large breed dog (mixes included) start off as a little cute, cuddly ball of fur that nobody is afraid of or nervous around.

Example 1 : With the medium and larger breed dogs our human emotion of comfort and security may start subsiding and eventually turn into fear, particularly when the puppy reaches the five, six, seven month old range. This is a normal human reaction when we start confusing what we think our dog should know  (inherited behavior of domestication, which doesn’t exist) and what we think we taught our dog.

Example 2 : If we tell our dog a hundred times to stop doing something and he continues to exhibit the undesirable behavior, we may believe that he is stupid or worse yet that he is challenging our authority as pack leader. When the reality is we were ineffective in our teaching process, hence the dog doesn’t understand what we expect from him.

Example 3 : how we can exasperate nervous aggressions in our dog : We are all dog lovers but that doesn’t mean we love all dogs, or feel at ease around other dogs. Even if we have a large breed dog ourselves that we are comfortable around, that doesn’t mean that we feel safe and secure around other dogs of similar size. By us feeling nervous or threatened around other dogs, we will project our feelings of nervousness onto our dog and our dog will react according to our emotions. Which is to say he gets nervous because we got nervous.

Example 4: When some dogs become excited and they want to play, they will bark and or growl at other dogs or people. Often we will mistake this behavior as some sort of aggression, and by doing so we start to confuse our dog by not allowing him or her to play. There are many individuals that mistake dogs play fighting, for dog fighting.

Example 5 : small dog nervousness : This is a very common occurrence with small breed dogs, brought on by overprotective owners. A significant portion of the time when a person is walking their small dog and they come across someone else walking any other breed of dog that is larger, what does that person do ? That’s right, they pick their little guy up. They pick their little dog up in those circumstance for a variety of reasons, a couple of those reasons being : 1- They are afraid their dog may get bit. 2-  As much as we may disagree, we are afraid of the other dog.

In both instances we are projecting our emotion of fear onto our dog. Another words, we are telling them “we need to be careful, I don’t trust that dog”. And since dogs can read body language to the point of almost being psychic, we assist them in their nervousness. This becomes a huge detriment to our dogs mental well being and overall happiness.

THE POINT of this whole thing is, it doesn’t matter what type of dog you get.  Expensive Pedigree from a real dog breeder, large breed dog, small breed dog, mixed breed dog or mutt.

They can all become nervous and or scared in any given situation, especially if we help them by becoming uncomfortable or nervous ourselves.

The Spirit Dog

28 Additional Behavior Articles


13 Responses

  1. Hello Joe,

    The biggest way we can help any nervous dog is by trying to get them happy, when they get nervous. Can you get her excited and playful when your alone at home with her ?

  2. My 17 month old Black Lab mix keeps looking behind her as we walk…if she sees someone behind her, no matter how far back, she looks constantly at them and if they are approaching quickly she will try to stop or go towards them, not in an aggressive manner though…she is on Prozac which helps her from biting her legs and sides…she is a great dog, however very nervous…any thoughts?

  3. I understand what you mean…I am also a teacher and would find it difficult to do what you do only by writing.

    All I can say, Al, is we always are learning, even at our old age of 50 (I’m 53). You are obviously an intelligent guy who CAN express himself, so maybe you will be learning another way of expression by using this blog thing. 🙂

    I am going to do the play thing first. They are great players…if I stop playing won’t they just continue to play with each other? Do I use a command to stop or just walk away or give them a look..?

  4. Hello Jenn,

    That’s part of it, but yea the leash at least limits to some degree how little she will listen. If there was no leash then it just makes it harder to try and get her attention.

    If tiny little noises can get her going, start off with them first. See this is so tough for me to try and advise you by way of the written word. My success with this stuff lies in my ability to first show somebody how to relate to their dog by doing it, than to guide that persons use of emotions, body language, tone of voice, and overall acting ability. Essentially I’m an acting coach.

    One of the real important things here is our emotion, we have to try and have control over them when doing this stuff. Because dogs will follow our emotional lead.


    Jenn start slow, you can even practice this while enticing your guys to play. Try getting them interested in playing then stop, and you do this over and over and over until you can turn them on and off like a light switch.

    I know, still pretty vague. I’ll try and think of a better way to explain it.


  5. OK, you want me to put the leash on her first, then have someone ring the bell… When she begins to react I tug on the leash and try to distract her…?
    I do this until she stops barking?

  6. Hi Jennifer,

    You need to put Ginger on a leash, (whatever collar she’s wearing is fine). and create some distractions for her so you have an opportunity to learn how to do this stuff.

    It may be easier on you if you put your other guys somewhere else in your home, so they don’t distract you or Ginger too much.

    I’ll explain the first step and as you master that step, I’ll have more steps for you.

    If Ginger acts crazy when the door bell rings or somebody knocks, that’s want I want you to do. You probably want to have someone else ring or knock, although a lot of dogs will start carrying on even if you knock an a wall.

    After the “ring” you have to try and get Gingers attention in any way you can. She’s not going to listen at first that is normal so don’t get upset. You start with minimal distractions, and gradually increase them as you become more proficient at getting her to listen.

    To get her to pay attention you can tug her leash to make her follow you, grab her tail, get excited (play), get calm or walk her around in a couple of circles while you are gently telling her “OK no more, enough already or whatever your favorite saying is”

    If this is to vague, let me know and I’ll try and go more into specific details.

  7. Yes, our house is around the corner from Puppy Palace.
    I would like to start with Ginger, who is the “worst”.

  8. Ralph is not as common as say, Ginger, Goldy, Max, Lucky or Buddy, but there out there. I’m having a hard time remembering but are you around the corner from that little pet store that sells puppies on the main street ?

    OK Jenny, your first step is to get then from freaking out at the door, once you know how to do that the other stuff will be easier.

    You can do this one of two ways, 1; you can act like a maniac which will get your dogs attention. or 2 ; you can start doing some individual leash work with your dogs one at a time.

    Which one do you want to learn.


  9. Sorry, after re-reading your response I see you asked how long we have had them. Ralphie 5 years, Ginger and Goldy almost three years, Ralph is 6 yrs. old, the other 2 are 4.

  10. We usually go to the dog run 3x a week in warm weather, and we go to our country house on weekends. When the weather gets cold, we’re at the dog run on the weekends if we don’t go away. Goldy is the one with the fear of cars, the other 2 are OK.

    After people are in the door, all is well, except that Ginger will bark at/charge tall men, (she was mistreated in her first home), and is the only one who has this problem, the other 2 are fine once you’re in the door. After 10-20 min. she calms down from that, but sometimes may not like him to get up and walk around. 90% of the time she is OK with everyone after 10-20 min., but there are a few (my brother) she won’t get comfortable with at all. She will even sit with someone and let him pet her, but once he gets up, she barks and might snap.
    I am ASTONISHED there are other dogs named Ralph…;) we live in East Rockaway, you came to us around the time you were looking at property up there. You called him a “happy go lucky dog”.

    However, Al, the scene AT the door is crazy. They ALL jump on the door, bark wildly and are very difficult to control.

  11. Oh yea, I do have an article in draft that I’ve been working on as related to helping nervous dogs. I’m probably going to have to break it up to a multi parter, don’t know when it will be ready.

  12. Hello Jennifer,

    I have to apologize, over the years I have helped a lot of people with dogs named Ralphie, in all five boroughs and Long Island. Although I usually do remember the dogs it’s not often I remember the people.

    So tell me, how long have you had these guys. In the course of a week ,how many times does Goldie go for rides. Are the dogs still nervous after someone has been in your house awhile.

    That will start us off.


  13. Hi Al,
    I’m so glad to see your website expanding, and to read the blogs of all the people/dogs you continue to help through your amazing life!! You have been blessed with this connection to animals and you share generously…thank you for that.

    Bloggers- I had the privelege of working with Al with my dog Ralphie. As Al has said many times before, he trained ME, Ralphie was fine, I thought I knew what HIS problem was, HA!! Al taught me and my husband in one visit how to calmly, confidently raise our dog to be healthy and happy. I know you will learn loads of stuff from him which will help you, too,

    So, AL, I have another question for you…after reading a previous article of yours you were comparing the aggressive and the nervous dog. You said you would write more about how to calm the nervous dog. I would like to hear more from you about that. I now have 2 rescues who seem to be happy, but still are nervous when people come to the door, dogs walk by the house or car. One of them, Goldy, is terrified of travelling in the car, even though 99.9% of the time we’re going to the dog run or to our house in the country (he loves both).
    So, Al, do your thing and give us some tips on how to calm the nervous dog.
    Thanks again,

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