As a responsible dog owner, you want the best for your furry friend, and that includes helping him relax when fear or anxiety strikes. Stress triggers range from isolation to meeting strangers or a fear of loud noises. Retraining techniques, medications and loving interaction can ease your dog’s jitters.
A Safe and Comforting Place
Many vets and trainers recommend giving a dog his own crate that he can call home. Once a dog becomes accustomed to a crate, he often seeks it out as his own special “den” where he can relax and feel safe. Place a soft blanket and a stuffed toy in the crate. For extra frazzled nerves, cover the crate with a sheet or blanket to block the view to the outside and help the crate feel more cozy.
Doggy Drugs to the Rescue
Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) is available over-the-counter as a spray or a liquid for use in a diffuser. Solutions containing synthetic DAP are thought to remind the dog of his days as a newborn, nursing from his mother. Mother dogs secrete a pheromone through their milk that helps keep nursing pups calm.
Other medications are available from your veterinarian that can ease anxiety and reduce obsessive/compulsive behavior symptoms that can be related to stress. Doggy drugs can be lifesavers when you’re traveling with a panicky pooch or when guests are visiting.
Soothing the Separation Despair
Your fur-kid misses you terribly and it shows. Scratched doors and floors, munched-on furniture and reports from the neighbors of incessant barking are clues that when you leave, your pooch turns into Bozo the wall bouncer. Separation anxiety is understandable. After all, dogs are social little creatures.
Behavior modification can help. Walk or exercise your dog for a minimum of one hour every day. Use a baby gate to restrict your dog’s access to the kitchen or laundry room while you’re gone instead of letting him have the run of the house.
Fill a rubber-reservoir chew toy with peanut butter and give it to your dog just before you leave for work. When you come home, ignore your furry friend for about 10 minutes to reduce his excited anticipation of your arrival. If possible, have a neighbor or pet-sitter visit your dog or take him out for a walk during the day.
Relief for Noise Phobias
When thunder crashes, your first inclination might be to grab up your terrified tail-wagger and heap sympathetic coos on him. Desensitizing his fear of fireworks, storms and loud noises, however, will be more beneficial in the long run.
Play an audio recording of thunder, loud crashes, gunshots and other terrifying noises to get your dog used to the sounds. Play the recording very softly at first, so softly that you can barely hear it. Over the course of a couple of months, turn up the sound gradually until your dog doesn’t run and hide behind the commode every time someone slams the door.
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- dog image by Lina Miseviciute from Fotolia.com
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