Halloween marks the official start of the holiday season. Though the parties and celebrations will be filled with food, fun, gifts, and laughter, there’s something about this time of year that creates an unnerving amount of stress and anxiety—this is especially true for our pets. Read on to learn more about pet anxiety and different ways to treat it.      

Signs of Anxiety in Dogs 

If your dog shows one or more of the following signs, it’s a good indicator that they may be feeling anxious: 

  • excessive barking 
  • pacing 
  • panting 
  • excessive drooling (also a symptom of motion sickness)
  • unusual, destructive behavior
  • hiding 
  • urinating or going where they shouldn’t 

How to Calm an Anxious Dog 

If your dog is exhibiting any of the behaviors above, it may be time to take matters into your own hands. But before you grab the phone to call your vet, here are four tips for keeping your pet calm during the holidays and beyond. 

1. Plan ahead. 

If your pup is an anxious individual, Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS, veterinary surgeon, and veterinary consultant for FiveBarks, recommends addressing the issue before the holidays via desensitization (e.g. exposing your pet to certain things and making it a positive experience).  

“This may mean just having a few people over, ensuring they bring treats for your dog, and having them stay a short while,” says Simon. “If your dog remains calm, reward them with lots of praise,” Simon continues. “You may also wish to take out some decorations and reward your dog when they see them from a distance and don’t react. Move them closer or leave them up for a few hours, ensuring your dog is happy and doesn’t become worried. It’s all about taking things ‘slow and steady’ or at a rate your pet finds comfortable.” 

2. Keep your furry friends close. 

The holidays can be a stressful time (for us humans and our animals), even so, according to doodle dog health expert and trainer Chris Allen, it’s important to include your fur babies in your holiday festivities. 

“The chaos and commotion of the holiday season can land our dogs in all kinds of trouble,” says Allen. “To stop your dog from being anxious with visitors and the flurry of activity, try and keep one thing consistent — the amount of time you spend with your dog,” Allen continues. “Don't suddenly crate your puppy or lock them in a room; doing this will confuse and compound their anxiety at the unfamiliar events occurring around them. This change of routine is just as upsetting as whatever distraction you’re trying to shield them from.” 

3. Create a safe space. 

If keeping your pet(s) around during your at-home gatherings isn’t an option, Simon suggests creating a safe and quiet spot in the home where your dog will feel calm and comfortable. 

“If they’re crate trained, use their crate. If not, use a donut-shaped bed with lots of blankets,” says Simon. “Keep their bed in an area of the home that is quiet and will have low footfall. Make sure they know where their ‘getaway’ is and always have access to it. If you can, put some relaxing music on nearby. Finally, keep them occupied with a tasty, filled Kong while you socialize in the next room.”

4. Train your pet to be alone. 

If you know you’ll be running errands or spending more time away from your home, Corinne Wigfall, BVM BVS, BVMedSci, and veterinary spokesperson for the online dog training resource SpiritDog Training recommends training your dog to be alone for a certain amount of time each day. 

“You need to start getting your dog used to being in the home alone without you,” says Wigfall. “Start by leaving your house every single day at different times for a minimum of five minutes. When you return do not make a big fuss of your dog,” Wigfall continues. “You need to go far enough away from the house for your dog to not be able to see or hear you. Over the coming weeks, increase the time away from the home by five minutes each day.” 

Wigfall also suggests keeping your pet occupied with puzzle toys or Nylabones or putting the TV or radio on to create background noise. Scheduling a dog walker or sending your pet to doggy daycare is another way in which you can ease their anxiety, especially if you know they’ll be home alone for an extended period of time. 

The process will take a couple of months at least so be prepared for a time commitment,” says Wigfall. “In the short term using Adaptil collars, Adaptil diffusers or Adaptil spray placed on a bandana around the neck can help,” Wigfall continues. “If you’re struggling with severe separation anxiety, and your dog is destroying the home or garden you may need to talk to a veterinary behaviorist for prescription medication and a training program to help resolve the issue.”

November 15, 2021
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