How to help your dog cope with stress & trauma.

August 15th, 2018

We all experience some kind of trauma in our lives at some point; personal, emotional, and/or physical.

Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience; emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may lead to long-term neurosis. In medical terms, trauma is also a physical injury.

I’m not going to talk about the deep traumas that happen in some dog’s lives, but more about situations that may occur occasionally during your life together, and how you can help to reduce that stress for them.

We can’t ask our dogs about what happened to them in the past, and why they react the way they do in some situations? There are some situations that may cause distress in some dog’s lives while other dogs will fly through these experiences with a wagging tail, hardly acknowledging the situation at all.

As the autumn is here, the thought of fireworks has started to spring into peoples’ minds, especially those whose dogs are frightened by the loud noises and the flying lights and bangs. You are not alone, there are a lot of dogs that suffer from the fear of fireworks. I’m very lucky that none of mine are scared of them, and actually, they get very excited, jumping and barking, trying to catch the lights. But in the past, I’ve had 3 dogs that were terrified of the fireworks and it’s heart-breaking to watch them go through this experience. This fear can lead a dog to run away, hide, bark, howl, or be destructive, and more.

To help your dog deal with this stressful situation, you can create a safe zone at home, close windows and curtains, leave a TV or radio on, you can also distract your dog with toys, and games and aromatherapy can help to calm and balance the nervous system, and restore peace. Over the years, two products from Vita Canis have proven to be very helpful when it comes to the fear of fireworks. The Calming Floral Spray and Comfort Blend both have natural calming and balancing qualities, providing ultimate relaxation for stressed dogs.

Some situations in our lives can be happy, joyful and fun for us humans but not so much for our four-legged family members. For more sensitive souls, a New Year’s party, moving house and even the arrival of a baby can be traumatising. My friend’s Lakeland terrier, Cassie, got really upset when she got her first ferret, Norbert. She was wining, crying, and shaking, but with a little help from the Comfort Blend she relaxed over a few days and now she can be in the same room as him, without any stress. However, he is in the crate just in case Cassie’s killer terrier instinct pops up!

Having a party and people coming through the door can also be stressful for some dogs. If your dog is not easy going, or doesn’t like too many people, you can place him in a crate or in a separate room, away from the crowd. Place a few drops of the Comfort Blend on the blanket, some chews, toys, and a soft bed will help to make your dog feel safe and relaxed. If you are planning a particularly loud party you can even ask your neighbour, a dog walker, or pet sitter etc. to look after your dog while you party. (Sometimes even overnight is a good idea as the next morning can be rough!)

A dog that experiences anxiety when his lifestyle is drastically altered will also find it difficult to deal with a new pack member … a baby. You can minimize your dog’s stress by gradually getting him used to the changes in advance. As life can be hectic and unpredictable with the new arrival, it helps if you prepare your dog for a less consistent daily schedule. Try different feeding times for your dog, change the walking routine, play time… you can even start hiring a dog walker to take care of your dog’s exercise after your baby’s arrival.

It is our responsibility, as dog owners, that our dogs are not only fed and walked, but that we make them feel safe, and give them space to display normal behaviour, and avoid mental suffering.

Dogs make us smile more, they teach us compassion, and patience, they make us exercise more, and also help us to deal with our own life traumas. We are here for each other, as Doris Day said, “I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”

Jitka xx

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