We need to remember that dogs are pack animals and it is natural for your dog to become anxious if you leave your home, especially if you haven’t left them anything to keep them occupied whilst you are gone!
So – what can YOU do to try and control anxiety, especially during your absence? Keep reading for our Top Five Tips on Controlling Anxiety in Your Dog:
- Give your dog a “safe space”: Dogs just like humans will need a break at times. Whether this be to sleep and feel safe, or to separate them from children or guests, or whilst you might be away from the home to help them to feel secure. Whilst we don’t recommend them for longer periods of time (like an entire workday) we do believe that teaching your dog to feel safe in a crate is a great method to help them with their anxiety. Dogs should be able to move freely in their crate and have warm bedding and toys to keep them occupied. Crate training should start slow and increase in time as your dog feels more comfortable. Your pet should have free access to their crate even at times when they are not confined to it. Starting off by feeding your dog in the crate can assist in positive association. (We will write a blog in more depth on this)
- Socialise your dog: Your dog should be socialised as much as possible with other people and dogs both inside and outside of the home. The more comfortable your dog feels with changes of scenery and interacting with other animals, the less confronting they will find situations as they get older. Whilst puppy schools are not always ideal in terms of learning appropriate behaviour from other dogs, they are a great way of getting your dog out into the world while they are young so that they start to develop the skills to behave appropriately in public. If you have more than one dog, it is important to give each dog individual attention, so they are able to operate on their own and develop resilience in their own right and not become overly dependent on their other furry friends. This is particularly important if you purchase to dogs from the same litter (this is known as litter mate syndrome).
- Start small: if you have an anxious dog and you are trying to build independence and resilience, start small. This may mean separating yourself from the dog whilst you are in the home and rewarding them when they are playing independently or cease their whinging. This can be hard work but remember, having an anxious mind is not pleasant for your hound, so trying to provide them with the tools to overcome this is in their best interests, which should be the focus of all our decisions. Once you can safely separate from short periods, you can progress to leaving the home for short periods. A big tip is to not engage your dog immediately upon your return home. Your return home should not be a particular cause for celebration as it should be focusing on desensitization, making this an ordinary event for your dog to be alone and for you to come and go.
- Don’t make things too “routine”: Have you ever babysat someone’s dog, who gets up every day and feeds them at 5.00am? Well let me tell you, if your dog has a strict routine, it will learn it and when those things don’t happen on time then they notice. A big tip from me is don’t keep things too routine and too structured. Don’t feed your pups at the exact same time every morning and evening, try changing that time up a bit, making it earlier one day and a bit later then next, try to avoid taking them for a walk at the same time every day because then if you need to skip a day, or you aren’t feeling well one day, pup will be devastated when you miss that walk. You dogs can be flexible if they learn to be young and it is better for their mental health if they aren’t eagerly awaiting each days events.
- Provide adequate enrichment: Dogs are happiest when they are able to satisfy their innate needs such as chewing, digging, sniffing, running, chasing and scavenging. As much as dogs become a part of the family, they have their own doggie needs, which as a pet owner it is our responsibility to provide. Whilst we may not want our dogs digging up our yards and chewing our plants, we can provide them with alternatives to ensure that we are providing adequate stimulation for their brains. Enrichment puzzles for brain development, lickimats for a calming effect, tog-o-war toys for playing, slow feeding bowls and sandpits for digging and finding food. There are so many opportunities where you can change your routine to provide mental stimulation in everyday activities with your hound. Hiding their food, using slow eating bowls to make them work for it, setting up a homemade sandpit for your hounds to satisfy their need to dig! It just takes pre-planning and a little bit of creativity!
There are of course times, when the above may not be enough for you and your furry friend and if you feel like your dog is suffering from serious anxiety we recommend you speak to a behaviorist trainer to see if they can help you get things under control.
Regardless, following these few tips will help you have a happier, healthier more fulfilled and independent pup – which, in will mean a happier and more relaxed household!
Let us know how you go implementing these techniques in your routine! And if you buy one of our enrichment toys please send us through a pic of your furry friend using it so we can post it on our social for all our furry followers to see!
Love from the Von Hounds to our friends.