With Winter here and the Holidays upon us it is common for our furry friends to have unwanted behavior changes from time to time due to added stress from environmental changes.
The environmental changes can be anything from the time change to other items like lack of exercise, holiday guests, kids coming home from college, taking vacations and hosting parties.
It may not seem like a lot to you but what your dog experiences is change in predictability and environment. When those two things change, unwanted attentions seeking, destructive, protective or anxious behaviors may increase and look like normal bad behavior.
Behavior is contingent on the environment. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. On any given training visit the first thing I look for before actual obedience or behavior training regardless of the circumstances is to find something, we can change that might make the dog’s life easier and encourage relaxation and or learning. I “try something new” or “change something.”
Buy a Mat
A few Christmas’ ago I visited my sister and her family for the holiday. This was the first Christmas for adolescent lab mix named Koko who had tons of energy. As the resident dog trainer, I was tasked to help with getting some space back at meal times and calm the puppy down.
I quickly made a few changes:
First, I visited the local pet store and purchased a Jolly Ball, some bully sticks and some training treats.
Next, I stopped by a local target and purchased a large memory foam bath.
Once back home I started working helping Koko learn to go to the new mat when mealtimes happened.
Slowly she showed more interest and started laying down on the mat with my direction. We practiced this for 5-7 minutes at a time, 3 times a day for the next 3 days.
When we ate meals she was tethered to a chair on her mat with the bully stick to occupy her.
When I returned home after just spending 4 days visiting and working with Koko, I received a text at dinner with a picture of Koko laying on her mat calmly watching the family eat at the table.
Wow! Was that fast or what?
We made a few changes with tethers and training as well as increased her exercise and gave her something to do on the mat while the family ate.
All In all I spent under $60 and under 20 min. a day in training to achieve this.
Other changes you can make:
Change the pet’s clothing
Try adding a drag line like a leash to the pet. Put a harness on them vs. a collar even while just inside or have them wear a shirt or even a “thunder shirt” from a pet store. Use a pet tether(leash) secured to furniture to prevent unwanted behavior with guests.
Change routine: Consider training for 5-10 min a day.
Practice getting eye contact and easy known cues like, sit, down, come, rollover and more. Add some fun games for a few minutes at the end like tug or fetch.
You will be surprised how much 10 min of fun interaction will benefit your dogs.
Walk your dogs separately.
You may be able to walk for less time when each dog gets their own time to smell and sniff and pee on what they want and not get dragged along or stopped by another dog in the household. Try using a 10 foot leash,(not retractable) to give them more room to smell and don’t worry so much about the destination. Let them tell you where they want to go.
Enrich the environment
Use interactive feeder toys to dispense their food. We love items like “Kong’s”, “Kong Wobblers”, “Kong Gyro’s”, “snuffle mats”, peanut butter lined “Licki mats” or the very fun “Snoop” toy by planet dog.
Use a blanket or towel and toss your dog’s portion of food in it and wrap it up. Your pooch will have a blast using his nose trying to find it all. This is a huge one for puppies in general. Your pet is a natural scavenger. Let them scavenge successfully.
Give them a safe space like a separate room or bed/crate or sectioned off area that is away from commotion and offer them Kong’s and bully stick items to keep them busy.
Use pet gates to or pens as needed to avoid chasing after your pets and getting them riled up. Remember your pets are masters of body language. Slow down, breathe, reduce frantic shouting or running because you’re in a hurry. Your dog will appreciate it.
Change their internal environment with supplements.
There are several calming supplements that may help calm nervous or stressed pets.
Our favorite is All Paws Essentials pet CBD which works great to relieve situational or environmental stress and anxious behavior. It’s also super good for them in general so this is a double win.
Other calming chews like “Heavenly Hounds” offer flower herbs like valerian and passion flower for calming. Adaptil pheromone collars are also useful and last a whole 30 days.
Sit or lay with them and slowly pet them.
Any amount of time given back to the dog will be appreciated and rewarded. Trust me.
Until next time, Be well and Wag tail.