We have a 4 year old working cocker spaniel who we have had since a puppy. She has always been quite nervous particularly around other dogs. She's never really liked bikes or large things moving (wheelie bins for example!).
A few years ago this wasn't helped when we had some men try to get into our back garden and she disturbed them and we think one may have kicked her as then she started to get very nervous around large men and would go for their feet especially if they were wearing work boots.
This seemed to get better though and we could tell people not to lean over her which was a problem and she would react much better.
In the last year we have adopted two daughters and since they have come to live with us she seems to have got very protective of them. She has never once reacted in this way with children or with anyone she knows though. But when they are up she will not settle or sleep and then in the evening she will sit by the door looking out. If somebody walks past our house she will now start barking and run out into the garden.
When out walking she got scared by someone with a very large buggy and wearing long swishy trousers and she managed to rip her trousers. Even the woman said she could tell she was going for either the wheels of the buggy or her trousers. And then last night she got scared by a dog whilst she was on the lead and went for this dog. At the time there was a large group of teenagers going past on skateboards and making a lot of noise and she was definitely scared when this dog came up to her. She kind of just lunges with a high pitched bark then backs away with her tail firmly between her legs. There's never any growling or anything.
I don't believe she is aggressive as it is always when she seems to feel threatened but it seems to be getting more frequent. She is very obedient off the lead and is definitely worse off the lead as this seems to add to her nervousness but it means we call her back to go on the lead if people are close by. She goes to work with my husband during the day but I would like to start her staying at home as I'm not working anymore but I'm worried about walking her and strangers coming to the house.
We are thinking of getting in touch with a dog behaviourist but we are going on holiday next week with her and our family so wondered if anyone has any advice we could start putting into practice immediately? Really don't want it to get any worse as we hate seeing her scared and other peoples reaction to her! We have had her eyesight checked out by a vet as we thought that could be a problem but they didn't think so.
I have a cocker/springer cross who is nervous in this way, although he doesn't tend to react to anything other than dogs. Firstly, I'd advise that you try to limit the stress to your dog by avoiding triggers as much as possible. You see a dog and feel your dog tense, turn around and walk the other way. Use a clicker, and treat every time your dog encounters something that makes her nervous, ideally before she gets so frightened she's reacting. So, for example, bring a wheely bin into the garden. Don't make her approach it, just let her watch it while you feed treats. Gradually, over time, get closer to it, treating and using a happy voice the whole time. Eventually, move it a small distance, then treat again etc. Do loads of basic obedience training to build her confidence, praising like crazy. My dog has got slowly less nervous, and will now greet smaller, calm dogs nicely without reacting, but it takes time (think more in terms of months and years than days and weeks). You can also try thundershirts, DAP collars, serene um etc, but tbh the best thing I have found is to stay calm yourself, limit exposure to frightening situations until the dog can cope, and patience.
A behaviourist is an excellent idea. My initial thought would be as she has ripped someone (sounds like a lovely understanding person) trouser, to use a Baskerville muzzle while you are out and about to prevent something awful from happening. Avoiding triggers, but it seems you can't always predict these.