Relieving Dog Anxiety over Howlidays

Some pups would bark “bah humbug!” if they could. They just don’t appreciate the Christmas spirit.

Everything in their lives are upside down. The family is busily trying to attend to last minute shopping and frazzled attempting to keep up with the kids’ Christmas parties. Meanwhile at work, end of year deadlines loom and you feel the pressure.

You are frantically trying to get the house in order for the big Christmas party as periodically and unexpectedly well-meaning friends and neighbors drop in.

If life is usually crazy, it’s totally out of control at the moment.

Watch for temptations!

Of course, some dogs go with the flow. But some don’t. The change of routine throws them, and they actually pick up on your stress, but have no idea why you’re so frazzled.

Other dogs just don’t appreciate all the company. If they bark at the visitors, it’s not because they’re acting out, it’s because they’re anxious if not downright fearful.

The best answer for them is to get long-term help to deal with their anxiety about visitors.

Meanwhile, the kindest and gentlest response when the doorbell rings (or even better before the doorbell rings) is to relocate the anxious dog into a sanctuary room, such as a second bedroom, den or basement.

Stuff low fat, low salt peanut butter inside a chew toy, or one of the many food puzzles available on the market. The idea is to give your dog something fun to focus on instead of worry about the visitors.

All those relatives can get loud so play some relaxing background music. One study suggest Reggae is the best choice. But most experts (and research) indicates classical music or maybe a talk radio station are your best bets. If you want to get fancy and high tech, check out iCalm and their produced tunes for pets, including the choices offered by Victoria Stilwell’s online store.

Plug in a pheromone diffuser which may help some dogs to moderate anxiety, just as pheromones do the same for puppies in the milk of lactating mothers.

If you’re unable to distract your pet with games and treats, and background music won’t do the trick there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of going a step further; in fact, it may be the most humane solution. Ask your veterinarian about nutraceuticals, which can be purchased online or through your veterinarian.

As for dogs who don’t mind the throng of friends and relatives but are upset by you being gone more often – the answer might be in a squeaky toy or tennis ball. While you may not have time for that long walk, you can toss a ball or a toy during the commercials as you watch your favorite television show. Or better yet, skip the show and toss the ball in the backyard.

Think of indoor activities to keep the pup occupied while you’re wrapping gifts. Dogs love games of hide ‘n seek. If you or the kids are too busy to play along, hide treats or a toy with treats stuffed inside.

Remember our pets can pick up on our stress. Another advantage of playing with the dog is that it’s a stress buster for you as well!

Happy HOWLidays!

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Positively Expert: Steve Dale

Steve is a certified dog and cat behavior consultant, has written several books, hosts two nationally syndicated radio shows, and has appeared on numerous TV shows including "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "National Geographic Explorer," and "Pets Part of the Family." Steve’s blog is


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