Helping Your Dog Overcome Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a more serious issue. A canine suffering from this behavior problem becomes increasingly stressed when his owner leaves him alone, or leaves him in the care of another person. This can tax the owner’s nerves, and strain his or her relationships with neighbors. Below, we’ll describe some of the signs of separation anxiety. You’ll also learn how to help your pet overcome the disorder.
How To Identify Separation Anxiety In Your Pet
Dogs react differently when they become stressed due to isolation. Some become vocal, barking and whining loudly until their owners return. Others will adopt destructive behaviors. They’ll dig holes and rip up gardens and grass outside, or destroy furniture and other objects indoors. Still other animals will eliminate indoors to relieve their stress.
Canines with severe separation anxiety may display nervousness about being left alone when their owners are home. For example, if left in another room, they might check periodically to make sure their owners are still nearby.
Training Your Canine To Be Independent
A lot of dogs become anxious when left by their owners because they have never been taught to be independent. Their attempts to seek attention in the past have always been rewarded. The first step toward reducing an animal’s separation anxiety is to discourage such attempts. If your dog barks or whines in a bid for your attention, refrain from giving it to him. Instead, reward him when he has become calm.
Minimize Your Dog’s Reaction To Signs Of Departure
Think about the things you do when you are preparing to leave your home. You might put on your shoes, remove a water bottle from your refrigerator, and pick up your car keys. Your pet will quickly recognize these signs, which can cause him to become stressed.
One way to address your canine’s reaction to these “signals” is to perform them throughout the day, even when you have no intention of leaving. Doing so will help sever the connection your pet has made between picking up your keys and being left alone.
Engage Your Pet’s Mind
Silence and the absence of distractions can amplify a canine’s feelings of isolation. Provide your pet with stimuli that will engage his mind in your absence. For example, give him a few toys, and change them periodically to prevent him from becoming bored. Test different types of music, and play the type that relaxes him at low volume (leave it on when you leave).
Another tactic is to give your dog a treat the moment before you leave your home. Though he may dread your departure, the treat will help him form a positive association with it.
Also, if your pet enjoys chewing objects (or even tearing them apart), give him an old piece of clothing or pair of shoes to play with. The activity will distract him, and can suppress his feelings of isolation.
Separation anxiety can become a distressing problem for dogs and their owners. If your pet displays signs of the disorder, be patient with him, and take the steps above to help him control it.
When Dogs Dig: How To Curb The Digging Habit In Your Canine
Digging dogs can be deeply frustrating for their owners. Unless the behavior is curbed, their yards and gardens might begin to look unsightly. Unfortunately, few people are able to identify the reasons their pets are digging, and thus cannot hope to successfully address the motivations behind the behavior.
In the space below, we’ll take a close look at why many canines dig. You’ll learn about the factors that prompt the behavior, which is a critical step toward discouraging it. We’ll also offer a few tips for shaping your pet’s habit in a way that preserves your yard and garden, and ensures his safety.
What Motivates A Dog To Dig?
There are many reasons a canine might be compelled to dig. For example, he might do so in an attempt to find cool soil to lie upon when the weather is warm. Or, he may wish to leave the confines of his yard to explore his neighborhood, roam for a mate, or look for food.
Some dogs dig because they are bored. This can happen when they are left outside by their owners for long periods of time. Lacking toys or anything else that might offer mental stimulation, they dig to entertain themselves.
A canine might also dig if he observes a rodent that triggers his prey instinct. In such cases, digging that suggests an attempt to escape is actually an indication of chasing a small animal.
Many dogs dig in order to hide their possessions. The behavior is not driven by anxiety that another animal (or person) will steal their resources, but rather by a motivation to save them for another time.
Another reason is to get away from environments they fear. The behavior may be prompted by loud noises, the appearance of a predator, or an abusive owner.
Each of these reasons may be a contributing factor in a dog’s digging. Discouraging the behavior usually requires addressing its motivation. That said, the following suggestions should prove helpful in most cases.
Designate An Area For Your Pet To Dig
One method for preventing your canine from digging up your lawn or garden is to direct his habit toward another area of your yard. Designate a space in which your pet can dig without reprimand. You’ll need to train him to dig there, an effort that is best made with plenty of treats.
Bury one of his favorite treats near the surface of the ground (loose soil works well). Make sure he observes you burying it. He’ll likely dig it up without needing to be prompted. Once he acquires the buried treat, praise him to reinforce the behavior. Perform this exercise several times until he begins to dig in his designated space on his own.
Make Inappropriate Areas Less Appealing
If your dog is persistent in digging up a particular area of your lawn or garden, you may need to take a more direct approach. For example, consider erecting a makeshift fence out of chicken wire with a portion of it buried several inches under the ground’s surface.
You can also purchase a number of products designed to keep your canine away with the use of scents he finds to be repulsive. Commercial repellents include “Get Away” and “Keep Off.” But even household items, such as vinegar and ammonia are effective.
Addressing Your Pet’s Boredom
Boredom is a common cause of digging. Even if the habit is motivated by another factor, providing your canine with more mental and physical activity can help curb the problem. Take him for two or three walks a day; play games, such as fetch and tug-o-war, with him; and visit a dog park, where he can interact with other pets.
If you are frustrated by your dog’s digging, identify the motivation behind the behavior. Although the habit is instinctive in canines, it can be discouraged with the right steps.
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An Introduction To Canine Body Language: What Is Your Pet Thinking?
Once you learn to recognize certain signals from your dog, determining what he is thinking becomes simple. Canines express themselves clearly through their faces, bodies, and mannerisms. You’ll be able to tell quickly whether your pet is feeling fearful, playful, anxious, or alert. In the event you confront an unfamiliar dog, his body language will help you to decide whether to approach him or stay away.
Below, we’ll highlight several states of mind canines experience. Learning to distinguish between them by noting your dog’s body facial expressions and body language will help to ensure your safety as well as that of your pet.
When Your Dog Feels At Ease
A canine that is relaxed will usually leave his mouth open with his tongue hanging out. His body will appear loose, and his posture will be easy. As he walks, he’ll hold his head high with his ears perked and his tail relaxed.
These are signs that the animal feels secure and safe. He is likely in familiar territory, such as his home or a park he visits frequently. He can be approached by any person who is not already considered a threat.
Vigilant For Signs Of Trouble
If a dog notices something unfamiliar to him, he’ll likely adopt a vigilant stance. His eyes will be open widely (though not from fear), and his mouth will be closed. His ears may be held slightly forward, and he’ll have a focused look. He may distribute his weight evenly across all four legs, or lean forward slightly.
The animal is deciding what he should do in light of the unfamiliar activity. He may do nothing, investigate, or retreat.
A Canine With Confidence
When a dog is confident to the point of expressing dominance, his tail will be raised and stiff; it might also waver from side to side. His mouth will normally be closed, though he might show teeth if he feels challenged. The hair on the animal’s shoulders and back will be raised, and he’ll stand tall, upright, and slightly forward to convey his dominant attitude. The ears on a confident canine will be positioned forward, and he’ll look directly at the animal or person who holds his interest.
When Your Pet Is Anxious And Agitated
Dogs that become fearful in the presence of other animals or people will tuck their tails between their legs, and flatten their ears. They will stare at the source of their anxiety to determine whether it intends to approach or retreat. The lips will be curled slightly to show teeth, and the nose may be creased.
If the animal or person who has prompted this reaction approaches, the anxious canine may retreat, assuming an escape route exists. If he feels trapped, he will likely bark aggressively, snarl, and lunge.
Signs Your Dog Feels Submissive
If your canine meets an animal that he considers to be higher in status, and he wants to inform the other that he is not a threat, he will assume a submissive posture. He may crouch close to the ground with his tail tucked. Or, he might roll over onto his back to expose his underside. If your dog remains on his feet, he’ll turn his nose upward toward the other animal, and dart his tongue in and out. He will, however, turn his gaze away to avoid direct eye contact.
The Playful Canine
If your dog wants to play, he’ll display several easily-recognized signs. Many canines perform a “play bow,” where they kneel on their front paws, and stick their rears in the air. Your pet may use his paws to gently bat at another animal’s face or body, and then dash off to encourage the other to chase him. He may also bounce on his paws, and perform quick jumps, turning his body while doing so. Throughout this activity, your dog’s mouth will be open, and his tongue will be sticking out the front.
Although most canines have predictable temperaments, they can experience a variety of moods. Learn to identify the signs of each in your pet as well as other dogs.
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Rules Of Engagement When Visiting A Dog Park With Your Pet
Dog parks have been a popular venue for owners and their pets for years. Owners can let their canines roam and play off-leash. But as with any public venue, there are several guidelines to follow to ensure the experience is pleasant for everyone. Neglecting them may draw stares, and even make you and your dog unwelcome.
With this in mind, we’ll provide several rules of dog park etiquette below. Some will seem intuitive while others may come as a surprise. The goal is to be informed, so you can avoid doing something that annoys other owners, and prevents them and their pets from enjoying the experience.
Pros And Cons Of Visiting A Dog Park
First, it’s worth considering some of the benefits and drawbacks to attending a dog park. Your canine will have an opportunity to interact with other dogs and people. This will play an important role in his socialization. The more comfortable he becomes around others, the less likely he will act aggressively down the road.
Also, your canine will enjoy physical and mental exercise. He’ll have an opportunity to race and play games with others. Or, he may wrestle with them. These and other activities will stimulate his mind while letting him work his muscles.
One of the potential downsides to dog parks is that some canines arrive with parasites. If your pet has received his vaccinations, he should be adequately protected from them. Also worth noting, some owners’ dogs are aggressive. This can pose a threat if they fight with other animals.
Things To Avoid Doing At A Dog Park
If your pet is still a puppy, consider waiting to take him to a park until he is six months old. Otherwise, his behavior may irritate the other animals.
Don’t force him to interact with the other dogs. If he is uncomfortable, take him elsewhere. Forcing him will only make him nervous, which in turn increases the risk of a confrontation.
It is also a good idea to leave treats behind, or only provide them to your pet when he is alone. If given an opportunity, other canines may attempt to acquire them.
Lastly, leave your cell phone and other gadgets in your car. Otherwise, they will distract your attention away from your pet. It is important to remain aware of your dog at all times, so you can act quickly if the need arises.
Tips For Being A Good Dog Park Patron
Be sure to clean up after your canine immediately after he has defecated. Have plenty of bags handy.
If your pet becomes aggressive – even slightly – toward another animal, remove him from the park. Do the same if you notice another dog showing aggressive behavior toward him. It is far better to intervene and prevent a physical confrontation than to risk your pet’s injury.
Also, watch your canine while he plays with others. Dogs will often play well together at first, but start to fight when play becomes too rough. If you feel your pet is playing too roughly with another animal, intervene.
Before your canine’s first visit to a dog park, take him to a veterinarian for a checkup. Make certain he is in good health, free of diseases, and current on all of his vaccinations.
The socialization, exercise, and mental stimulation your canine will receive at a dog park will make the experience a valuable one. Follow the above guidelines to help make the experience pleasant for everyone.