At this time of year, we can look forward to lots of celebrations and events, from Hallowe’en to Fireworks Night, but these occasions can be stressful for our dogs. Here are some tips to help you — and your pet.
- There are many ‘calming’ products you can try for stressful situations. Some are supplements added to meals, others are pills or liquid drops that can be given on a specific day or night. For best effect some need to be given a few days in advance. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully as some may be inappropriate if your dog has certain health issues or is taking particular medications; check with your vet first. Find out more about which products can help to keep your dogs calm here.
- Plugging in a pheromone diffuser may help your dog to feel safe and secure. These diffusers emit a synthetic copy of natural canine pheromones, and you can reinforce the effect by applying a pheromone spray to your dog’s den or bed. Often, they need to be introduced well in advance of a specific event to maximise their effectiveness.
- Anxiety vests and body wraps can provide a ‘portable hug’, which many dogs find reassuring and calming.
- Hallowe’en can be lots of fun for us, but less so for our dogs. The chances are you’ll get lots of trick or treaters knocking on your door, and many of these will be in costume, which can be confusing and scary for your pet.
- Make sure your dog has access to a quiet room or safe space away from all the hustle and bustle.
- There are bound to be lots of sweets about — many of which are dangerous for dogs if they consume them. Make sure you keep Hallowe’en treats in a safe space and out of reach of inquisitive noses. Pumpkin lanterns can be a hazard too; keep a constant eye on them and never leave your dog unattended with a lit candle. Keep your vet’s contact number to hand so you can get expert help immediately in the case of an emergency.
- Your dog may come into contact with lots of children at Hallowe’en, so it is important that you know what his reaction will be. Be aware that many excitable children — often in strange costumes — may want to say hello to him, which can cause extra stress.
- Some owners like to dress their dogs up for Hallowe’en. While some dogs take this in their stride, others are not so happy, so know your dog and read his body language carefully; never force him to wear something he feels uncomfortable in.
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- Feed your dog earlier than usual as he may be too worried to eat once the noises start. A long-lasting chewy treat or a tightly stuffed Kong may help distract him; chewing is also a good stress-buster. Keep water bowls topped up as anxious dogs pant more so may be thirstier.
- Take your main walk before dusk; alternatively, it won’t harm your dog if he misses a few walks at this time of year.
- Take your dog out to toilet before dusk. Don’t go further than necessary, and even in your garden, keep him on a lead. Wait until well after the last bangs before a final bedtime toilet break, or if he doesn’t want to go out, or there are still a few sporadic bangs, get up earlier next morning to take him out.
- Draw all the curtains to mask the noise, and switch on the radio or TV before you expect any fireworks to start. Turn up the volume enough to disguise some of the external noise, but not so loud it’s uncomfortable or stressful in its own right. Musical selections compiled especially for dogs are available online.
- White noise can also help mask external sounds; download or listen online to recordings or buy a portable white noise machine.
- If your dog wants to pace around, allow him to do so, but if he prefers hiding away that’s fine too. Don’t force him to leave his ‘safe’ place.
- Create a den where he can feel secure. If using a crate, leave the door open so he can come and go as he chooses and doesn’t feel trapped. Some dogs find a pile of blankets and duvets to burrow under more comforting.
- Try to be relaxed and behave normally. Offer comfort and reassurance to your dog if he wants it, but interact in a calm way. Use games or some reward-based training as a distraction if your dog enjoys these activities.
- Dim the lights; this encourages melatonin production, which induces restfulness and sleep.
- If your dog’s anxiety about fireworks is a problem, and seems to be getting worse, you may need expert help in setting up a long-term programme to tackle it. Seek advice from your vet.
- The key to a merry Christmas — for everyone — is to plan ahead, so that means starting now.
- If you are planning a party or having people to stay, think about how this will impact on your dog and what you need to do to prepare him.
- As far as possible, maintain your dog’s usual routine of feed times and walks. This will help him to feel more settled and secure.
- Dogs can become a little overwhelmed at Christmas so make sure yours has a quiet room or crate to escape to. You can cover the crate with a blanket, dim the lights, and offer your dog a frozen Kong, licking mat, or snuffle rug to keep him occupied.
- Christmas is such a busy time and there’s so much going on that it’s easy to overlook things. Remember that the abundance of alcohol, food, gift wrapping, Christmas decorations, festive plants, and even fallen pine needles, which can get stuck in paws (if you have a real Christmas tree), can be potential hazards for your dog. Keep as much as possible above dog height, make sure visiting guests are aware that they mustn’t feed your dog titbits, and make a plan to be extra vigilant during the festive season.
If you have concerns about your pet’s health and/or behaviour, seek expert help. Get in touch with your vet.
Keep your dog calm with the Beaphar CaniComfort range.
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