After 3 years of working at BONeJOUR, I've heard about a lot of pet issues. This is the first in a series of blogs about ways to deal with the issues that come up in the store everyday.
One of the most common issues people come to me with is dog anxiety. People walk into the store daily and tell me about their dog who is scared of thunderstorms, people, fireworks, other dogs, and/or being alone. If you’ve read Ramona’s story, you know this is an issue that is near and dear to me, and my heart goes out to people dealing with an anxious dog. It’s really frustrating!
There are a quite a few training techniques you can try with your dog to help them get over their fears. A simple one is called reconditioning. The main principle of this idea is to help your dog associate their fear with something good, rather than something bad. If your dog really likes bully sticks, give her one as you’re getting ready to leave for work. Make this a routine, and eventually she will get so excited for her bully stick that she forgets to be anxious about you leaving. This technique will work with other fears too - if a dog is only given a special, high-value toy when it storms, eventually he will associate storms with that toy, and become focused on playing with you and his favorite toy rather than the storm.
The key word to all of this is EVENTUALLY. Reconditioning, like all training, takes time. And to a desperate dog owner and a scaredy-pup, even a few months seems like forever. There are quite a few products on the market to (as a customer said to me today) help “take the edge off” your dog’s fear while you are working on training them to get over it completely.
You’ve already read my blog on Thundershirts, and if you’ve come into the store you’ve probably heard me go on and on about them... I love those things! They are cute little jackets that provide a gentle, calming pressure on your dog to help them keep a hold of themselves in stressful situations. We all know that swaddling a baby works... this is based on the same principle. I love that it’s completely drug free, and your dog gets to wear a really cute little jacket in the bargain!
We carry another product called “Happy Traveler” made by Ark Naturals. It has familiar “calmers” like Valerian, Tryptophan, Chamomile, and St. John’s Wort. You’ve all had that relaxed feeling after overdosing on Thanksgiving turkey (Tryptophan) or drinking a cup of tea before bed (chamomile). This product can help your dog deal with his fears by giving him the same relaxed feeling. It will NOT knock your dog out like a tranquilizer does. It’s all natural, and can be used only when needed, unlike many prescription anxiety medications that need to be taken daily. It’s called “Happy Traveler” because it was developed for use with pets who were afraid to travel in carriers on airplanes, but it really works in any situation when your dog needs some help to keep calm. Like any supplement, it works differently on every dog. I’ve seen huge improvements on some dogs, and I’ve seen no change at all with other dogs. But to dog owners who are struggling with their pets’ anxious behaviors, anything is worth a try.
Stop by the store and ask me about these products, or for help with training your dog to be less anxious. I know first-hand how stressful an anxious dog can be, and I’m always willing to help!