This season there are many things that can cause additional stress for our beloved furry family members. Fireworks, visitors, parties and even additional food and smells around. What should we look for and what can we do to help them.
Things to look out for in an anxious dog are pacing, repetitive behaviour, barking or howling, destructive behaviour, hiding or cowering or indeed soiling themselves and their environment.
Some of the ways to help your dog could be:
Phased exposure and positive reinforcement – You can help your dog by gently getting them used to the experience by phasing exposure to whatever makes them anxious and when they get through it without negative behaviour ensuring you positively reward with praise before moving on. For example if your dog has separation anxiety start by leaving them for a short time in a room in the house without you and then when they are relaxed with that extend the time and then move to a different floor in the house and then maybe a short period alone in the house etc. I could write a whole article on just this subject but for now I hope you get the idea. The main thing here is to ensure it is a positive experience for the dog and not one at any stage where he is chastised or this can reinforce the fear and anxiety.
Adaptation of environment – Small adaptations can help your anxious pet. If they’re afraid of fireworks for instance make a “safe den” in a dog crate or room for them and put the radio on louder than normal (but not too loud).
Calming equipment – There are a number of things for sale in pet stores you can buy to help your pet with anxiety. Different dogs take better to different solutions so it can be trial and error to find that one that helps yours. Items such as thunder shirts, Dog appeaser hormones (DAP) plug in or sprays, adaptil collars, calming music, clocks under there bedding sounding like the mother heart beat etc. All worth considering as additions to the training.
Medication – For short intense periods of stress like fireworks or travel if you know your dog will suffer severe anxiety then it is always worth visiting your vet who will consider whether a short course of dose of sedatives might help.
Many dogs end up being abandoned or rehomed due to stress behaviours so it is well worth being patient and helping your dog through. They aren’t doing the behaviour to upset, they love you but they are just scared and need your help. If these basics steps don’t work contact a trainer or behaviourist for further help and advice.
If it does help anyone with separation anxiety we at Calagran Four Paws Hotel do day board for pets while you are at work so they can have company and fun while your away. A bit like a fun and friendly doggy crèche.