I am in love with the holidays.
The hustle, the bustle, the singing, the bells and the wrapping paper!The cookies and the hot chocolate and the special festive cocktails! The company and the events and so much going on!!
It’s magical, unless you happen to be the owner of an anxious dog.All the chaos and excitement of the holidays tends to leave Felix feeling a little bit like this: For a dog like Felix who has some general anxiety issues (separation anxiety, sound reactivity, and a bunch of other stuff), the added activity of the holidays can be overwhelming. Our neighbours have an animatronic Santa that moves and says “HO! HO! HO!” in a creepy robot voice. That thing scares me, so it’s no surprise Fe thinks that guy is highly suspect. Festive parties mean there are more people coming & going in our hallways than usual and my own penchant for holiday festivities mean there is more going on inside out apartment too.
Helping your dog keep calm when the Holidays get a little crazy.As a responsible dog owner, I understand that my action affect Felix’s anxiety levels. Here are some of the ways we’re helping Felix keep his cool this season:
- Calming Sounds – Some dogs respond really well to calm melodies, like those found in classical music. Keep it festive and calm by playing classical Christmas tunes at a low volume. Some dogs (like mine) prefer the sound of speaking, so they find comfort in Audiobooks or talk radio.
- Calming Touch – TTouch (or Tellington Touch) is a massage technique that is said to help relieve anxiety. Since I have only a basic understanding of TTouch (and what I know was trained on my horses, not on my dogs), I feel pretty confident that Felix isn’t getting the full benefit of this method, however, I will say that trained or not, taking the time to sit down with your dog and give them a calming, gentle massage can go a long way to easing anxiety.
- A Busy Dog is Calm Dog –When the house is a bit crazy, I like to give my dogs food puzzles, like Kongs, Nina Ottosan toys or a stuffed trachea chew. Givin your dog something to focus on, other than the activity that is making him anxiety is a huge stress buster and can even help create a positive association with what is going on. For example, my friend B brings bully sticks every Sunday when she comes to watch the Walking Dead. The stress of having campany pales in comparison to the joy of a bully stick and now, B might be Fe’s favourite person.
- Provide Sanctuary – When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Sometimes, Felix just needs to take a time out. We’ve put his crate in the spare room, with a black out drape over top and I put his favourite Harry Potter Audiobooks on to play. He loves it.
Some dogs need more support: Calming Chews can help.To be completely honest, we use a lot of those tricks year ’round, so this time of year, it’s not always enough. This year, we’ve turn to Calming Chews by Pet Naturals of Vermont to help us ease Felix’s fears. The little bite sized chews contain a colostrum calming complex and L-theanine. Colostrum is a form of milk that can support stress reduction and cognitive function. It works together with the L-theanine, an amino acid that helps the body create dopamine and GABA, to help curb destructive behaviors associated with stress. This is the kind of chew that you can give every day to support an anxious dog or you can give it every now and again, when you know you’re going to be putting your dog in an anxious situation.
For Felix, one chew is not enough to completely curb his anxiety, but is is enough that we can work through it together. After all, if I’m stressing my boy out with my holly and my jolly, then it’s only fair that we move past it together too. Two chews are a great help and are often enough that he’ll lay down and play with his toys instead of stressing out. That really is a Christmas miracle.I can see this being a great help to a dog who doesn’t have a general anxiety issue, but who is just a little anxious with the added bustle of the holidays or really, any time life makes us a little crazy.