Tips for Stressful Days
Spooky Season has arrived
Do you have a plan or coping skills for your dog on potentially stressful days?
Halloween can be a big issue for dogs, but this guide can work for anything from big changes happening, busy times, travel, or petsitting a friend's dog.
1. Start desensitizing to possible triggers
From spooky decorations, to door knocking, to masks, you'll want to slowly and safely introduce your dog to possible triggers. Remember, don't force them to interact with it, give them treats or other rewards for looking at or interacting with it.
2. Go for a big dog-centric walk
Take the time to tire your dog out through a big walk, and make it extra tiring for them!
- Let them sniff for a few blocks
- Get them working by giving them commands like touch, jumping up, look etc.
- Walk faster or go off leash if your area is safe (if there are fireworks or triggers nearby, keep your dog on leash to prevent bolting)
Remember, the walk is for them, so make it fun for them as well as you!
3. Engagement toys and chews
Work their brain through treat dispensing toys to tire them out even more. You can do this during the stressful event, or earlier in the day to set yourself up for success.
Chewing eases frustrating and releases endorphins, these are great to give during a potentially stressful time (Trick or Treaters coming by, a party, etc).
4. Calming supplements or treats
Take the edge off with herbal or prescribed supplements. We'd recommend trying these at least once before the stressful day itself so you can adjust the recommended dose based on your dog's experience.
5. Set up a safe room
Choose a room or space where your dog is already comfortable spending time. This may be a bedroom, their crate, or under the kitchen table - wherever they go to relax. Make the space extra comfortable with blankets, their favourite toy, and chews nearby. Assuming they don't have confinement issues, keeping them confined to the space will help them realize they are safe.
6. Block out scary stimulus
Calming music and a heavy window covering can go a long way, if your dog doesn't experience the fireworks as loudly, or at all, they will have less chance to be scared by them!
7. Stay home if you need to!
Sometimes your dog needs company to feel safe. If you absolutely have to leave them during a stressful evening, consider asking a friend to babysit or set up a camera to check on them. They may become destructive if their anxiety spirals, and it could set you up for more difficulty in the future.
8. Be a guiding calm energy
Stay calm and confident. You don't have to ignore the fact that they're scared, just be a source of calming energy in a confident manner: instead of making sad noises which may scare your dog further, give them something they can do and tell them they're doing a good job. For example: if they'll go to bed, send them there and say "Good go to bed... good job." in a warm tone, not high excited tones, and shower with treats.
Bonus safety tip:
Don't let them off leash and keep them away from the front door if you suspect they might bolt.