Managing pet stress & anxiety

Bad behavior by your four-legged family members can create disruptions that range from a minor nuisance to full-out frustration. In fact, leading veterinary organizations report that behavior problems are the leading cause of pet euthanasia and account for as much as 80 percent of pet abandonment.

Warmer weather fosters many of the activities and situations that can bring out the worst in pets such as family travel, loud noises from increased activity in the neighborhood or fireworks, and ceaseless barking in the yard or on a walk.

Fear and stress are common triggers for behavior problems in pets, so taking steps to reduce the impact of scary and stressful situations can make a big difference.

Travel

While some pets can’t wait to hop in the car and take off, others experience stress and fear from travel. For some, it is the motion of the vehicle, and for others it may be the fear of unfamiliar environments. With a grasp of basic commands, as well as a little planning on the part of the owner, your pet can enjoy a more comfortable travel environment.

Keeping your pet in a carrier during the journey is the best way to keep them safe and secure. Include a favorite blanket or toy in the carrier to increase comfort and provide reassurance. Set the carrier out several days in advance, leaving the door open to allow your pet to explore it without fear of immediate departure.

During the journey, allow your dog to exercise and relieve themselves every two hours. For cats, put a litter tray in the car, along with some water, and allow them to roam free in the car every few hours. Do not leave pets unattended in the car as it increases their fear and can affect their safety.

Loud noise

Loud noises such as thunder or fireworks can create extreme stress and fear that cause not only emotional distress, but also dangerous behaviors like trying to escape or becoming destructive. Avoid forcing your pet to stay with you and “get used to” the loud noises that are terrifying him. Instead, try creating a safe place for your pet to come and go freely based on the area that he tries to go when he becomes frightened, such as the basement, your bedroom or behind the sofa.

Running a fan or radio can to help distract from the noise he fears. You can also distract your dog with favorite toys or activities just as he becomes anxious about the approach of a storm or sporadic firework sounds.

Barking incessantly

There are many reasons a dog might bark incessantly, preventing you from enjoying the company of guests, annoying your neighbors and leaving you feeling irritated. While it’s unreasonable to expect a dog to never bark again, there are ways to help your dog change behavior and reduce barking. One of the best ways is to give your dog plenty of exercise through active play, walking or running to ensure pent-up energy isn’t driving your dog to bark. After correcting the behavior, activity can also help redirect a barking dog’s attention. If your dog is barking for attention, ignore him until he quiets, then give a treat or reward to reinforce the “no barking” behavior.

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