It’s heartbreaking seeing your dog scared. Being frightened can result in destructive behaviour, shaking, salivating, crying or even being aggressive. Dealing with a dog showing any combination of these behaviours can be difficult and stressful.
We all know what sets our dogs ‘off’. With Lulu it’s fireworks, Ella hates the hoover and Boo freezes on slippery floors. Mac and Pippa, the two new pups on the block, seem fearless so far, but we suspect this youthful innocence won’t last long. Most dogs seem to fear something. The good news is that with many dog phobias, there are practical steps you can take to minimise them. Most must be managed rather than cured, although in extreme cases it is necessary to take your dog to a vet and seek professional help.
With some of us returning to work after extended lockdown, this is a topical issue. Dogs love having us around and clearly miss us when we go out. No one adapts to change easily, so if you know you will be away from the house longer than normal, for any reason, it is best to prepare your dog first. Start with small breaks and leave and enter the house without eye contact or excessive jollity. You want to reinforce the idea that being there, or away, is not a big deal. Though you may be tempted to leave them in a smaller room when you are out, be careful to not let this become the ‘room of doom’ that signals your departure, so change it up a bit, and use stair gates to give them, and you, flexibility. Plenty of exercise and a wee beforehand is obvious but plan the extra time required for it – even if it means getting up earlier. Leaving a radio on low, (chat rather than music is best), a treat toy and a cuddly toy or blanket with your smell on, will comfort and distract throughout the day. Arrange dog walkers or visitors to break the day up, if you are away for a long period of time. If stress continues, despite all your efforts, seek The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors or the Animal Behaviour and Training Council for professional help.
Fireworks and Thunder
This is a common phobia and a tricky one as so many of us have to travel regularly with our dogs. Sometimes the motion of the car can make the dog feel ill, but more often it is a phobia by association such as visits to the vets.
If you can get in the car with your dog, not switch it on and not go anywhere and give them a treat, this is a good start. Build up from this, with longer periods of time, different seating and different activities in the car. Give them attention, praise and distract with a toy. Break down the pattern your dog expects, and then focus on having just the engine on and then following this with very short journeys at first. Wearing a Drying Coat in the car is warming and comforting and helps the dog to feel more secure and cared for. We know of many customers who regularly use coats for car trips in this way to take the edge off the dog’s stress.