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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!

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