Unfortunately many owners have hyper dogs, anxious dogs, or dogs that just won’t settle. Instead of going straight for the medication.. It is important to look at the dog as a whole. Every aspect of a dog's life is linked together. Making sure they are balanced in many of the aspects of life, makes for a calmer dog. Just like humans, they too can get unsettled if the environment, diet or sleep for example isn’t right. So let’s have a look at the Complete Canine here for a moment.
Calmness on walks:
- Let your dog lead, go wherever they want to go and let them follow their nose. Obviously, not for every walk and it needs to stay safe.
- Do some scent work out on walks. Go find, parmesan cheese trail, tracking.
- Have them practise calm when out for a coffee at a place that's okay with having dogs.
Calmness in the home:
- Do you have a safe place for the dog? Every dog can feel overwhelmed sometimes and may need a break especially if you have children or other animals.
- A space for your dog where the kids know not to approach the dog at all, ever.
- A place for the dog to chew in piece or have dinner uninterrupted (this means other animals or dogs in the house also)
- Noise: is your house noisy? Lots of dogs can be sensitive to noise, so giving them some quiet time in a day full of chaos can be very beneficial.
- Smell: Dogs' noses are super sensitive. If we can smell something a dog can smell that too, but much more! Being mindful of the scents (candles, cleaning detergents, essential oils) you use in the house is very important. Lots of (strong) smells can make your dog stressed or restless.
- Sensory: Flooring is important. Slipping and sliding over the floor (laminate for example) can cause damage to their body. Giving them some non-slip rugs to walk over, lie on or play on makes life less stressful for them.
- Touch: How do you touch your dog? Are you calm or are you always about power and roughness in play? That amps a dog up. Check for their body language. Do they lean in to touch or move away? Are they licking their lips? Turning their head away? What happens if you stop touching them? Will they re-initiate contact or walk away?
Active engagement with your dog:
- How much time does your dog get from you each day? Doing something where they are engaged with you, 100%. No phone..Dogs need real connections!
Sleep and rest:
- Dogs sleep between 12 - 14 hours a day.. puppies even for 18 hours! Dogs that don't get enough sleep can get grumpy, frustrated and can get tantrums. Much like toddlers! -
Again, creating that quiet space for your dog to rest and sleep is important. It's why I'm such a fan of the crate.
- Make the space nice and comfy. Enough space for them to stretch as far as possible. Some dogs (like Lenyx) even like sleeping on a pillow.
How can you help them relax?
- Give them a safe enrichment activity to do like a stuffed kon to help them settle down away from you (in a crate for example).
- You can set up a camera in the room or area they are in so you can check in how they're doing without disturbing them. This is great for puppies so they can get used to settling by themselves without us.
- You can practise ‘Sit on the dog’, where you teach your dog to be calm ‘on command’.
- Give them a space where they can relax.
Does your dog have a voice in your household?
Be aware of how your dog is feeling and check in with them especially when the environment changes like when it's the holidays. Christmas can be overwhelming for some dogs, suddenly being surrounded by many more people in the house. Or a new baby in the house. You may be extra busy due to a big project at work. Or maybe you're getting an additional dog. Check in with them. Do they need extra time away from some people? Do they need a walk? Some of your time? Do they need some play time with another dog you know they're friendly with? Do they need a time out away from the new dog? Maybe you even block off an area the new dog can't reach so your current dog can have alone time from the puppy. It's really needed and necessary.
Every dog is different, just like humans are. We don't HAVE to do the same every day. Sometimes your dog may need a 2 hour walk, others no walk at all, or just 15 min. It can depend on the day, on the weather on how your dog is feeling. Maybe it's good to change your routine a bit. Change your route (if your dog knows where you're going) or the time that you walk. Maybe you will take them for a bike ride one day instead of a walk.. and do flirt pole the next day.
This is a big one. Play is not just buying your dog toys and letting them play with it. Dogs like interaction. They like to play with you. How often do you do this? And how? Are they able to play with other dogs? Or by themselves? Do they like to tug or chase? Do they like to ‘kill’ their toy? Do they only like to tug with you and get bored when you let the toy go?
I'm not a nutritionist, but just like humans.. overly processed (sugary!) food can impact your dog's state of mind and energy levels. Read your dog's food label. What is in it and what does it mean? If you're unsure I really recommend checking out: www.petfoodreviews.com.au Supplements can also be helpful for your dog like joint and bone support.
Is your dog in pain?
Many dogs can hide their pain quite well, so make sure you can identify (hopefully) if your dog is in pain. Most obvious ones: change in food and drinking. Additionally: more whining or being vocal, more grumpy, growling, sudden aggressiveness, sudden fear, excessive licking, anti social etc.
Behaviour comes from emotions. Ask yourself: How do I help them feel better? Instead of: How can I stop this behaviour?