Mental health is an important part of overall health and well-being for our dogs, just as it is for us. Our canine companions fall into comfortable routines and some may have trouble adjusting to any changes. New people, objects, sounds, or other changes in the household can cause stress for dogs. Here are some tips and tricks to help your dog stay happy, comfortable and relaxed around new situations.
Tip #1 Ensure your dog is up to date on health checks with your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian is your best partner for ensuring that your dog remains in the best of mental and physical health. You want to make sure your canine friend doesn’t have any health conditions, such as pain or discomfort, that may aggravate their fear or anxiety when you introduce them to new situations.
Tip #2 Slowly introduce new situations, people and objects, and make it a positive experience.
Consider the following scenario. You have a gathering of friends or family coming up, but your dog has never been around kids before. Children can be unpredictable and make sudden loud noises. You want to take ample time before the event to give your dog slow and positive exposure to children. Start with giving them lots of treats when kids are across the street, ensuring that they remain relaxed. Repeat this step a few times on separate occasions. Eventually, work to slowly decrease the distance between your dog and the kids. If your dog appears anxious or fearful, take a step back, and take a little more time before getting closer. Work up to having the children give treats to your dog. Eventually, you want them to think “Hooray! Treats!” whenever he sees kids, to create a positive association.
Tip #3 Do not punish your dog if she appears scared or anxious.
Veterinary behaviorists agree that dogs should not be punished when demonstrating anxious or scared behavior. Fear and anxiety are emotional responses. They mean the dog is in distress. Instead, it is important to stay calm, and provide a way for your dog to move away from the potential source of fear. They needs to approach new situations at their own pace.
Tip #4 Use pheromones to help give your dog a sense of comfort and security during challenging, or novel situations.
Pheromones are odourless substances produced by animals that provide signals regarding behavior and emotional states. They play important roles in communications between animals. When mother dogs have puppies, they produce a pheromone called the Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP). DAP helps make the puppies feel safe and secure, and decreases stress and anxiety.
Adaptil products use a copy of DAP to provide a sense of comfort and security to dogs of all ages, while helping them feel relaxed. This product is clinically proven to help reassure dogs during challenging or new situations. Adaptil is available in a collar to provide support wherever the dog goes; a spray for specific situations such as travel; and a diffuser to provide comfort in the home. Having Adaptil on board while exposing your dog to new situations will help them feel relaxed and reassured.
If you want to learn more
Your veterinarian is a great resource for advice specific to your dog. Another great resource is the Fear Free Happy Homes website, which provides a wealth of information regarding anxiety and stress in general, along with how to help your dog in particular situations.