Tips for canine stress reduction
"This is a collection of techniques and products that have worked for me in reducing a dog’s stress levels and keeping them at low levels. It is important when dealing with ongoing stress behaviors that a thorough veterinary exam be completed as soon as possible. Many stress behaviors can be indicative of health concerns. These suggestions are in no way meant to replace veterinary care. Please take this list with you to your dog’s veterinary appointment and ask which techniques and products would be suitable to try with your dog if you have any questions or concerns.
If your dog is in a situation she finds stressful, the easiest way to reduce her stress is to remove her from the area to a place that is calmer and quieter. If this is not possible, it may help for you to put an object or even your own body between your dog and what is causing her stress as a visual blocker (if your dog is able to see). Perhaps you can move her to a different vantage point which will help her to feel safer. For instance, moving her away from a busy doorway where others are coming and going will allow her to have more personal space.
If you have a crate with you that your dog recognizes as a safe place, use it. Place it in a quiet out-of-the-way place for your dog to relax in. Some dogs may find having the crate covered offers them a greater sense of security. If you don’t have a crate with you, a few minutes in the safety of your car (a familiar environment to your dog) may help her to calm down.
Some dogs will appreciate a chew toy when they are stressed to help them self-soothe. Stuffed Kong toys and safe bones are good for this. Some dogs won’t eat or chew when they are stressed, but others chew more when they are stressed. This will depend on your dog.
Gentle massage, TTouch®, Healing Touch for Animals®, and other body work can be helpful in teaching your dog to relax in stressful situations. Healing Touch for Animals® has a wonderful program where you can learn techniques for relaxing and calming your dog and for helping her to deal with stress, as does TTouch®.
Work slowly to get your dog used to new situations that may cause stress. Don’t just throw her into a new situation and hope for the best. Your goal should always be to help your dog have an enjoyable experience. Go slowly so if she is not enjoying herself, you can intervene and remove her from the situation or make it easier for her.
Do not force your dog to interact with people or situations that are causing her stress. Let her approach as she becomes more comfortable.
There are supplements that can help with calming and relaxing your dog. Rescue remedy can be very useful to have on hand for stressful situations. Talk to your veterinarian about how best to use this supplement. Essential oils and other supplements can also be helpful, but care should be taken with dosages, so check with someone who is qualified to advise you.
Keeping a loose leash is a huge stress reducer! Dogs pulled around on tight leashes feel powerless and trapped and become fearful. Your dog can’t relax if she feels that she cannot get away. Allow her to move away from the stress if she wishes. Teach loose leash walking.
Some dogs feel more comfortable when wearing a coat or T shirt. Check out other similar techniques and products such as TTouch® body wraps, anxiety wraps, or Thundershirts. These create steady pressure to your dog’s body and can be very calming.
Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise. Walking exercise is great! Allow your dog to sniff, using a long leash in an open area if you can. Dogs need to sniff and explore to feel secure in their environment. Walking gets your dog away from home and lets her experience new things and meet new people so she is better able to deal with the stresses of being in public. If she never leaves home, she can’t be expected to know how to handle things outside of her home.
Change the dog’s food to a more appropriate diet. Many popular dog foods have fillers and artificial ingredients that can affect your dog’s behavior and body physiology, including how she deals with stress. A diet with better quality ingredients can help your dog feel better and be less stressed in general.
Let your dog have time to be a dog. Be less controlling when the situation does not call for it. Having the freedom to make some of her own decisions can boost her confidence and lower her stress levels.
Use calming music for your dog to listen to while you are away, or even while you are at home. Healing Touch for Animals® has great CDs created for this purpose, as does Through a Dog’s Ear. Classical music can also work in a pinch. Of course this is only useful if your dog can hear the music. I have noticed that my b/d dog does appear to feel the vibrations of music through a radio on the floor.
Give your dog a safe place where she can choose to go get away from the world for a while. This may be a crate left open for her to come and go as she pleases, or a bed in a quiet corner where she won’t be disturbed.
DAP sprays, collars, and plug-ins may be helpful in a variety of circumstances. DAP stands for dog-appeasing pheromones. DAP products were created to help soothe dogs in various situations."
Excerpt from Through A Dark Silence
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