I used to have a really stressful job as a Fashion Designer between deadlines, designing, meetings and dealing with people I’d have a lot on my plate at any one time. All this stress played havoc on my body from tension in my neck, to head aches, to stomach problems to making me feel depressed, it wasn’t good all. It took a long time but I learned to de-stress so I could sleep better and handle another day at work. Its really not healthy to carry around so much stress.
Dogs who are reactive, nervous or scared are also carrying stress remember they collect stress in their invisible boxes, if we don’t help them get rid of it the constant stress, then it can turn into long term health problems like heart disease. If your dog has a stressful event like a visit to the vets or groomers, a walk where he reacts to a trigger etc then we need to help him unwind and empty the stress from his box.
If your dog doesn’t get the chance to fully relax and let go of his stress, the chances are high that on tomorrows walk he will react much quicker to a trigger or be more fearful then usual. This is because there is only so much stress a dog can carry around before he can’t tolerate anymore, once hes hit his limit all bets are off. You’ll most likely think hes suddenly aggressive, reactive or scared for no reason when the truth is hes had his fill of stress.
If you are struggling with separation anxiety or attention seeking behaviours from your dog, then helping your dog to chill out will make the prospect of being alone a little easier to do. A dog who is relaxed is in a better frame of mind to learn how to be alone and settle down.
So this is my wee guide to providing your dog with relaxation, you can deploy one or more these after every walk regardless of whether you think its been stressful or not. Even if you’ve had a quiet day at home then still use one or more of these, as a little extra relaxation never hurt anyone did it.
1.Have A Snooze Who doesn’t feel better after some quality sleep? Give him plenty of time to rest, sleep if needs be. Ensure he has access to his bed at all times so he can take himself off to snooze.
2. Enrichment Toy Provide a mental puzzle. Use one of these, your dog will get lots of lovely treats while, flexing his brain and in turn help your dog to relax before having a good snooze. My go to favourites are a Lick Mat and a Snuffle Ball.
3. The Ear TTouch T-Touch® a method of gentle body work you can use on your dog to help with a number of training, behaviour, illness problems. The Ear Touch which is perfect for calming your dog down after a stressful event and can help refocus them too. Plus its really nice for us humans too. My two dogs have big floppy ears and I love nothing more then tickling and playing with them. So the T-touch makes it even more soothing for them. This contact will also help promote confidence between you as your dog learns to trust your hands and touch.
- You will need to sit on a chair or the floor with your dog. Your dogs head should be in your lap or resting on the floor. You may need to support your dogs head, with one hand by placing it under his chin and work with the other.
- With floppy eared dogs hold the ear with fingers on the underside and your thumb resting on the outer/top side. The ear should be resting on your hand and be horizontal to the ground. For upright ears we will work in an upright direction.
- Start where the ear attaches to the head and with your thumb and fingers gently slide your hand down their ear right down to the tip. Your thumb should cover the entire ear.
- The pressure should be very light, think about holding a petal or butterfly wings between your fingers and thumb.
- You can repeat the move several times. Then move onto the other side.
Your dog should naturally relax and so should you. I like to do this when I am sat on the sofa and Erick is draped across my knee.
4. A Massage. Who doesn’t love a massage, I sure do and so do most dogs. Massage is a way to help their bodies let go of any tension/tightness they are carrying in their muscles. It aids relaxation, circulation, pain relief and much more. I learned this basic technique and its something all owners can do, its called Feathering and is a lovely calm action, where you move only your finger tips over your dogs body.
- With a very light stroking motion and light pressure though your finger tips go over your dogs entire body.
- Move your hands in any and all directions as you work around his body. Ensure you cover all areas evenly. If there are certain parts your dog doesn’t like being touched then just avoid them.
5. A Dog Nose Sniffing is the ultimate mental exercise for every dog. Its great for tiring out your dog, helping calm them down after a stressful event and its what they were born to do! Erick loves nothing more then putting his nose to the ground and following it. 30 minutes of letting him do this means I have one tired dog.
Sniffing Games to make include-
Activity Boxes – If like me you have a random selection of cardboard boxes laying around then you can turn these in to a search and sniff game. Simply grab a box make sure all the flaps are folded in so you’re left with an open box. Then scatter one or two treats in each box, then get your dog and encourage them to find the treats. You may need to help them out by showing them with your hands.
Once your dog has mastered the search you can make it harder by getting crumpled up paper and placing it the boxes, then hide the treats under the paper so you dog has to sniff under the paper – use as much or as little paper as you like.
Tea Towel Swiss Roll – Grab yourself an old tea towel or old hand towel and lay it out flat. Along the shorter edge place a couple of treats along it, then roll the towel as though you are rolling a Swiss Roll just for one or two rolls then place a few more treats down. Repeat until you have an inch or 2 of towel left at the end, then place a treat just under the last roll.
Present the towel to your dog and let them sniff out the treats. You may have to help them initially to unroll the towel, but they will get the hang of it. Careful if your dog is a clever clogs and decides to pick up the towel and shake it out.
Toilet, Wrapping Paper & Kitchen Paper Rolls – In a flash back to your Blue Peter days I want you to start using your cardboard tubes up! Very simply fold over, scrunch up the end of a tube, pop a few treats in and fold over the end. You can give the tube(s) to your dog or you can hide them around the home.
Treat Hunting – Get 10 to 15 pieces of kibble or treats. Place the treats around a room – in plain sight. i.e. on chairs, shelf edges, next to furniture etc. Let your dog in the room and say ‘Find’, You may need to show him the general location of each treat while he learns to play the game. After a few goes at this game you can make the hiding places harder by using different heights, popping a treat inside a shoe, place on top of an opened drawer.
See you don’t actually have to do alot to help your dog chill out, you will no doubt know yourself that letting go of stress helps your emotional state and how you physically feel. Your dog is no different.
Take a look at your life and your dogs life to see if there are any reason specifically that could be causing your dog lots of stress and try to remove it.
If you need further help with your dog and his problems please do get in touch with me, there is always plenty we can do together to train your dog. Head over the Practically Perfect Dog Training pages on my website or send me an email to Contact@edinburghholisticdogs.co.uk
Rescue Dog Ranger™ and Cheif Canine Happiness Officer