The holidays can be very stressful for our pets. We are changing our routines with vacations, inviting guests over, and exercising less because of cold weather. Family dogs synchronize with our moods, feeling the stress we carry.
It is easy to overlook these minor changes, but to your dog, these minor changes are gigantic changes. Add in a dog that is already a bit anxious with separation or fearful of new people and this can lead to unexpected behavior.
The Trainer’s most common story is based on “he/she never did this before” and “we are shocked” wanting to know why their dog did XYZ. The dog’s behavior is a result of something, to be thought of as a symptom. For example, when a dog snaps at another dog, we need to identify the root cause of that behavior.
There is a difference between a dog that snaps out of fear versus a dog that snaps to assert dominance. A good dog trainer will be able to evaluate the cause of behavior and provide an avenue to changing the motivation for the snapping, thus ending the snapping!
Although you may not be able to decode the “why” of your dog’s unusual behavior, you can make a list of changes that may be affecting or stressing your dog. One schedule change may not cause your dog to chew up his bed but adding in new guests each day and little outside time and voila! Good-bye fancy orthopedic, bolstered dog bed.
What can you do? Be aware. Be conscious. Be Flexible.
1. Be Aware. Plan for your days off, extra workload, dinner parties, family visiting, your own travels and any thing you partake in that varies from the “daily grind”. Simply being aware will help to see the early signs of stress. These include: pacing, barking, lip licking, yawning frequently, paw licking, and destruction. When you see these early signs STOP and spend 5 minutes with your dog. A short walk, little ball game or food toy as you sit on the floor with him or her can change their day.
2. Be Conscious. Watch the weather report and fit a walk, even if only 5 minutes, into your day at the warmest times or takes extra long walks on rain-free snow-free days. Have a long work week or late dinner party? Hire that dog walker! A trustworthy dog walker is worth their weight in gold on cold snowy days. Once per week or five times a week will help your dog greatly.
3. Be Flexible. Change your walking routes, play new games with your dog, and be ready to walk your dog when the weather does break. When the weather won’t give, or your dog is really bored, take them to pet-friendly stores. Your dog will love the field trip and will be tired from all the new sights and smells.
Remember you are not the only one feeling Holiday Stress. Your dog that is looking at you right now, waiting for you to put the phone down, feels your stress. Grab your leash and go play!
Katie Weibel, Master Dog Trainer. Providing training for companion, service and working dogs, sharing knowledge and expertise.