Updated: Jul 15
There was an interesting article recently which talked about stress in our dogs and how we can help them. It certainly has been stressful over the past few weeks of lock down for everyone and whether we know or not, our dogs have been absorbing much of that. Now as we move into a new phase – the new normal, if you like, we must consider how we help our dogs learn to relax and chill a little bit more.
Hopefully, some of you may have taken the opportunity to teach your dogs some scentwork using my tips and ideas on the website page. We start by using food, it will help your dog learn to work with you as team and more importantly, understand the word Find it and the consequence of this, is that they relax and sleep more deeply. It is the actual sniffing that releases the endorphins which makes them feel better and rest. This mean the body can repair itself and they are less likely to fall ill.
Stress reduction and decompression are the foundation of successful training and behaviour modification programme. In other words, when we are stressed, we cannot learn! It’s the same for our dogs, which is why when I see my private clients, I always encourage them to teach some scentwork with their dogs to balance out the training side of the work.
Stress is a natural reaction to something – it is programmed into every animal, including us. The “fight or flight” reaction releases hormones to prepare our body to deal with the threat it feels. It is not something we can just switch off, so we must allow time and peace to help repair our body after the perceived threat. Whether we like it or not, over the past few months, the threat has been there, and that is why many of us have headaches, cannot sleep properly and finding it difficult to settle. Sound familiar? Well it is the same for our dogs, things have changed, and they do not like it. Now throw in the “street dog” rescued from abroad and having had a long journey, or the rescue dog that thought they were safe in a foster home, and then circumstances changed and they are now with you, and we have “STRESS”. And what about the puppy that hasn’t had the exposure to all the right things as they grow up. I am seeing many of these who are wary of people, other dogs and even traffic. Just because of that dreaded “Covid19”!
How to help, well we know that we need to provide a regular routine. Enrich our dogs lives and be consistent ( difficult when we are stressed ourselves) Minimise exposure to things causing stress ( dog rushing up to your dog and there is an excess of people desperate to want to talk to your dog as they haven’t anyone else to talk to )– all sounds familiar doesn’t it?
We need to provide some calm and quiet walks – off lead if possible but if not on a long line where your dog can go and sniff and explore. Use a secure dog park if need be, they are springing up all over the place and if there isn’t one nearby, it really is worth the journey once a week, to visit one and see your dog relax. The peace and quiet will help you too.
Maybe get your dog to search for some of their food using toys and games. Allow them to chew and lick and chill. They need sleep in a quiet place away from all the noise of the household – I know its difficult if you have children or other pets. But just like a child, they need to be taught to rest. If you have a crate, pop them in there with a chew and then leave them to enjoy it. Of course, you should supervise them, don’t ever leave them with a chew and go out of sight, but that’s your time to pick up a book and chill yourself.
This is why I teach scentwork – the art of using one’s nose to find something that will result in a reward. I teach all dogs to do this from the puppy of 10 weeks old through to the worried street dog. They all know how to sniff! But we want them to associate it with us – so we can be their safe space and “Chill master”.
I have several scentwork workshops coming up, where you can learn some techniques to practice at home. There is plenty of ways to doing it and I would encourage you to look at my webpage which outlines the method. https://www.thewalkaboutway.co.uk/scentwork-lessons. My next meeting is on Saturday 25th July at the beautiful Hoe Cross dog park in Hambledon in Hampshire and all dogs are welcome as we are working outdoors and there is plenty of space. Why not join me then? I have 2 spaces left.
Another option would be to join the three-week course at Chichester secure dog park in North Mundham, which is designed for the older dog. Ideally your dog needs to be over 1, but in some cases a really fit younger dog can join in. Held once a fortnight on a Saturday afternoon, I shall be teaching some searching and tracking, scentwork and maybe some agility for focus. Again, the session is only an hour and working outdoors, I will be sharing some of my ideas to keep your dog’s life enriched during its walks. The course starts on 1st August and will have just 5 places – just 3 left!
Finally, although we are still prevented from using the halls, I am available to help people at secure fields on a personal basis. This can be designed to help with many problems, so get in touch today if I can help and until we meet again, stay chilled and let me know what you are doing to help your dog through this extraordinary summer.