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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dress For Success

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. Training, treats, lots of exercise, and medications can all help your pup stay happy and healthy. For some dogs, one simple plan is all you need. For others, a combination of techniques will be required. And for some, nothing seems to help when faced with loud, scary noises.

Thunderstorms and fireworks are a huge problem for lots of dogs and their owners. I've seen dogs that are normally confident and sassy be reduced to shivering, drooling, frightened pups at the first flash of lightening. The Fourth of July can be a nightmare for these poor dogs, and most of them only get worse as they get older.

As we said before, it's possible to train your dog to expect good things when the thunder booms, and there are pills that can ease his anxiety as well. But there's another option you might want to consider - the Thundershirt
The Thundershirt works by wrapping your dog in a tightly fitted vest. The constant pressure is said to relieve anxiety in much the same way swaddling helps to soothe a crying baby, or a weighted vest can help a nervous child to relax and focus.

Thundershirts are available in sizes to fit nearly every dog from tiny toys to extra large breeds like Rottweillers. They come in three colors, so the fashion-conscious pooch can coordinate her wardrobe. And they offer a 100% money back guarantee. If the Thundershirt doesn't help your dog get over his fears, simply return it within 45 days for a full refund.

I hope you have found these tips helpful. After all, we have our pet as companions and want they to lead happy lives. Look for my next series coming soon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Who's The Boss

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. Last time we talked about teaching your dog a few tricks to help him gain confidence and to relieve his fears. There's an even bigger benefit to good training, though: It teaches your dog who is boss.

Dogs are pack animals, and in every pack there is a dominant dog who is in charge. That dog provides the meals for the pack, decides where they live, and ensures the safety of all the pack members. To your dog, you and your family are his pack, and if you don't take charge of the pack, he may feel the need to step up and become the leader.

And this can lead to serious anxiety issues for your pet.

Imagine if you're in charge of the safety and health of a group, but every day that group locks you up and goes away. You don't know where they're going or when they'll return, and you have no way to follow them. You'd be a worried mess all day, too.

In order to avoid doing this to your pet, you need to make it clear to him that you are in charge, and that he can relax. In short, you need to establish yourself as the boss. There are books that recommend scary-sounding tricks like the alpha roll, but that's a good way to scare your dog even more. Instead, consistent training is the key.

Never give your dog a command you can't enforce. In other words, unless you're prepared to make your dog sit if she doesn't comply, then don't give the command. Allowing her to disobey you reinforces the idea that you're not the boss - the exact opposite of what you're trying to accomplish. If you tell your dog to come and he doesn't, then go and get him. Not in an angry or upset way, but firmly.

The same goes for repeating a command. Don't do it. When you repeat a command what you're really teaching your dog is that he or she only needs to obey you sometimes, because other times you don't mean what you say. That's a sure fire way to confuse your dog and escalate his anxiety rather than alleviate it.

So give your pup the training he needs and wants, but do it consistently and firmly, so there is never any doubt in his mind just who's in charge.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Home Of Her Own

You know how sometimes the kids and the dog and the spouse and the job all just seem to gang up on you and all you want is to go lie down and relax? Sometimes that's all your dog wants, too. Just a quiet place he won't be disturbed for a while.

For dogs prone to anxiety attacks, this can be especially important. In fact, you'll often find anxious dogs hiding under the bed, behind the sofa, or even in the bathtub - all places that are small and confined and offer a sense of security. Why not give your dog just such a place he or she can call her own?

Safe places come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common option is a crate, which can serve double-duty as a place where your pooch can hang out when you're not home, potentially saving your living room rug from certain doggy disasters. Choose a crate that's large enough for your dog to stand, sit, lie down, and turn around in, but not so large that you could put several dogs in it. Think cozy, not palatial.

You'll probably need to experiment with crate placement. Some dogs are unhappy if they're left out of the action, so tucking a crate away in a corner of the basement might just make your pup even more anxious.   If that's the case with your pooch, try setting up her crate in a bedroom, or opt for a decorative crate that serves as a small table as well. Alternately, you might choose a crate that folds up, so you can set it up only when you need it, and tuck it away in the closet when it's not in use.

Another way to make your pup feel safe is to give her a bed or pillow that is her's alone. This is her safe spot, and the place you ask her to go when, for example, company is over. Make sure the family respects her bed, and that no one bothers her when she's in it, otherwise it will fail to provide the sense of security your dog needs.

Also, be sure you never punish your dog by making her get in her crate or her bed. Doing so will associate her home with anxious feelings, and only make her more nervous when it's time to be crated. Her bed and her crate should be a happy place where she can spend time alone, just as your bedroom is your sanctuary when you need some peace and quiet in your day.

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Training For Confidence

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. In the last email we talked about giving your pup a workout to help him run off his fear and anxiety. While physical exercise is important (for both of you), mental exercise can be even more critical when it comes to helping your dog get over his fear.

Dogs like to know what's expected of them. Their goal is to please the leader of the pack (you), but unless they know what the leader expects, they can't comply. Basic obedience training addresses your dog's worry that he's not doing the right thing, while  at the same time helping to keep him safe from dangers like traffic.

All dogs are willing and capable of learning basic commands like sit, stay, down, and come. You can begin training pups as young as seven weeks, and no dog is too old to learn. Work with your dog in short sessions, no more than 10 minutes, and be sure to vary the environment, otherwise your dog may learn to sit, but only in the living room. Once you've mastered the basics, consider moving on to more complicated concepts for even greater confidence.

Having a job to do can mean the difference between a bored, anxiety ridden dog, and a confident member of the pack. Your dog's job might be as simple as fetching the toy you asked for, or as complicated as closing the door behind after he comes in the house. Having a dog that can perform these kinds of tasks is not only good for his or her mental health, but it's a lot of fun for you as well, so make training an entertaining part of your day, and you'll both look forward to it.

If you need help getting started, many of the larger pet stores offer dog training classes, or check your local yellow pages for training facilities in your area. Click-a-Trick Education along with other classes are available at PetSmart.

Check back tomorrow for another great tip. Until then . . .

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Good For The Dog! And Good For The Human, Too!

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. Last time we talked about keeping your pup happy by letting him party with his pooch friends. But for some dogs, crowds can be a problem. In fact, some dogs just plain don't like other dogs at all, so dog parks and puppy play dates are out.

Keeping your dog cooped up in the house isn't the answer either. Just like people, dogs need exercise to keep their bodies and their minds healthy. For some dogs, one or two walks per day might be enough, but for high-energy pups like Border Collies and German Shepherd Dogs, you're going to have to do some work.

If you have a fenced yard, a rousing game of frisbee or fetch can tire you both out and help keep the anxiety away. If you don't have a fence, check your local parks. Some have enclosed baseball fields that will work in a pinch - just make sure you clean up after your dog.

No fence and no baseball diamond nearby? No worries. With a little adaptation, you can take your dog for a bike run that will surely tire him out. Simply attach the Springer to your bike, clip the leash to your dog's harness, and you'll be ready to hit the bike trails. Your dog will be able to run freely without getting tangled in the wheels or pedals, and you won't have to worry that he'll run off after another dog and take you down with him.

Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog, so get out there and give your pup some well-deserved exercise to help keep him calm and well-behaved.

An Important Note:  Physical exercise is important for your dog's overall health, but there's another kind of exercise that's critical for a happy dog. Stick around to learn how you can turn your timid pooch into a confident canine.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Doggie Day Care: The Social Scene for Dogs

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. So far we've covered how to help your pup over those rough spots and to remain calm in the face of fear. Whether you were able to sooth his frayed nerves with just a simple change of attitude or something stronger was required, the only way to maintain the calm is to make some lifestyle choices. In short, your pup needs some supportive friends.

Dogs are social creatures. In the wild, they live in packs, but a lot of domesticated dogs have little in the way of social interaction. Sure, you're their best friend, but you're at work all day, leaving puppy isolated, lonely, and bored. That can be a recipe for an anxiety attack.

For a pooch who suffers from separation anxiety, doggy day care might just be the answer. Rather than leaving your pup home alone, drop him off at a day camp where he can run and play with other dogs, hang out with animal-loving staff, and - most importantly - return home tired and happy at the end of the day.

Doggie day care doesn't have to be an expensive boutique experience - although it can be if that's what you and your dog prefer. You can also trade dog-sitting duties with friends. Who ever doesn't have to work that day gets to host a party.

And you don't have to drag your dog to camp every day to see the effect, either. Just a couple of days a week can make a huge difference in the life of a socially isolated dog, so check around and see what facilities are available where you live, or pair up with a friend or two to help keep all your dogs happy and healthy.

An important note: Dogs who are anxious can sometimes be aggressive towards other dogs, so never leave strange dogs alone together. If your dog just can't tolerate the company of others, all is not lost. Check out the next email for ideas about keeping an anti-social pup happier.

Take A Chill Pill, Pup!

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. In the last email we covered how offering a special snack or distracting your dog with a tasty treat during stressful times can help take his mind off the worry. For a lot of dogs, that's enough, especially if you're able to catch their anxious moments early enough.

For some dogs, though, these tricks just won't do it. Particularly nervous dogs might simply ignore a treat, or worse, vomit after eating it. Highly anxious dogs like this might sometimes require intervention in the form of medication.

A popular over-the-counter choice is melatonin, which is a hormone that helps regulate our sleep patterns. Taking melatonin is said to have a positive effect on mood and to have a calming influence. Melatonin is a natural product that can be purchased in the vitamin aisle of nearly every drug store, but just because it's natural and available over the counter doesn't mean it's the right choice for your dog. Always check with your veterinarian before giving your pup any medications.

Another option for fearful dogs is benadryl. This drug, also available over the counter, is used to treat allergies in both humans and dogs. However, one of the major side effects is sleepiness, which can counteract an anxiety attack. Again, check with your vet before giving any animal benadryl or any other medication.

Finally, severely anxious dogs may benefit from taking anti-depressants. Just like their humans, dogs can have a chemical imbalance that causes them to be depressed and anxious, and this imbalance can be controlled with the use of prescription medications. Ask your vet about the options available for your dog if he or she isn't responding to other treatments.

Come back tomorrow for another tip!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Driving Your Dog To Distraction

Thanks for joining me as we explore the ways we can help our favorite pets get over their fears and anxieties. Last time we talked about the power of acting natural, but sometimes ignoring that sad little shivering mess of a dog isn't the answer.

While we'd like to convey to the dog that all is well with the world simply by appearing calm ourselves, a dog that's all wrapped up in his own anxious thoughts might not notice our cool demeanor. He might just need a little help in the form of a tasty snack to take his mind off his troubles.

There are two mechanisms at work here. The first is simple distraction. It's hard to be worried about the noise outside when you're concentrating on that cookie mom's about to toss your way. The second is positive reinforcement. By bringing out those yummy biscuits when bad things start to happen, those bad things begin to look good instead. Thunder = Snausages! Woo-Hoo! Bring on the rain! Or at least that's what we hope will happen.

This is not an instant fix, of course. It takes many frightful episodes paired with delicious snacks before your dog will begin to make the connection. As with anything, consistency and repetition is the key to long-term success.

But what if Fido only gets anxious when you leave? Obviously you can't be there to administer the soothing snack foods, but you can make sure your leaving is something to look forward to by offering your dog a special home-alone treat.

 Kong Toys filled with Peanut Butter or dog treats are a good choice since the dog will have to work at getting all the goodies out. This will keep him occupied long enough to get over the fact that you've left him. If you find he cleans out his Kong too quickly, try filling it with kibble, pouring in some low-sodium beef broth, and freezing it.

Neither of these methods will work, however, if your fearful pup has access to Snausages and Kongs all the time. It has to be a special treat that only comes out during times of stress.

Stop back tomorrow for another great tip!

Just Act Natural

If you're like most dog owners, when your beloved pet is upset or frightened, your first instinct is to cuddle and comfort them. While it can be helpful when dealing with anxious children, this kind of comfort can actually make your dog's anxiety problem worse.

Since your dog doesn't understand logic, you can't explain to him that the thunder isn't going to hurt him, like you can with a child. Instead, what he understands is that the thunder got a reaction out of you, too. Therefore, it must be bad.

Hopefully you would never take the opposite approach and reprimand your dog for his nervousness, but if you did, you'd have the same effect. The dog would see that the thunder (or whatever else is upsetting him) is making you nervous and upset as well. His reaction is then justified, and he's going to become more likely to react in the same way in the future, rather than less likely.

The solution? Just act natural. Don't scold him or praise him or do anything at all differently. As much as you can, simply ignore the anxiety-causing thing that's driving your dog crazy. Your dog looks to you for guidance about how to act in different situations, and if you show him that the storm or fireworks or screaming neighbor kids don't bother you, they'll be less likely to bother him, too.

But that's not to say there's nothing you can do to help your dog remain calm on the Fourth of July. Stick around for the next email, and we'll talk about how to make your dog actually look forward to fireworks.

Check back tomorrow for another tip!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dealing With Doggie Anxiety

It's not just people who suffer from anxiety disorders, your beloved pet dog can have some anxious days as well. And if you're not taking steps to monitor and reduce the stress your puppy feels, you might just find yourself with a basket case for a best friend every time it storms. That's no fun for either of you, so in this 10-part series, we're going to look at some causes of - and cures for - dog anxiety disorders.

First, lets talk about the why of dog anxiety. Like people, every dog has his or her own personality. Their unique traits are formed by a combination of genetics and environment. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to nervousness, particularly toy breeds and certain other purebreds. And some dogs may have been frightened by exposure to loud noises or overly enthusiastic children when they were very young, which can have a negative effect even when they're older.

You can minimize the possibility of having an anxious family pet by carefully choosing the right breed for you and your family, and by training and socializing your new puppy properly. But if you get an older dog, or one of undetermined heritage, it can be a challenge to overcome whatever issues he comes with.

Anxiety in dogs manifests in a variety of ways. You may come home from work one day and find your sofa shredded or your dog may urinate whenever someone reaches to pet her. Some dogs hide in corners, under furniture, or even in the bathtub during thunderstorms, and many simply refuse to respond to commands when under stress. All these situations are frustrating for dog owners, and frustrated owners lead to even greater anxiety for already suffering dogs. It's a vicious cycle that can be hard to break.

Over the next 10 days we're going to take a closer look at the 10 best ways to deal with dog anxiety, some tools you can use to help reduce your pup's stress levels (and your own), and I'll show you my favorite sources for information on this all-too-common dog problem. So stick around. A happier home life for you and your pet is just around the corner!

Come back tomorrow to get another tip for soothing your pup's nerves. Until then, visit Your Family Pet for more information on dogs and other family pets.