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How to Keep Your Dog Calm During the Holidays and Fireworks

How to Keep Your Dog Calm During the Holidays and Fireworks

Since our dogs mirror us, it's no surprise that they too are stressed around the holidays. Changes in routine and the hustle and bustle of visiting family members can be stressful for some dogs while others thrive with all the activity.
 
Recognizing signs of stress in your dog
When exhibiting a fear response dogs will either exhibit flight or fright and even freeze. They may lower their head and cower away, and their ears may not perk up but go to the side or back. Obviously, you have to look at the big picture and this may not hold true for every dog. Other signs include anxiously watching the activity around them (hypervigilance), yawning, panting, salivating, acting lethargic/slinking around, tensing up, trembling, refusing to eat, lip licking, having accidents in the house, and shedding. They may also have trouble responding to commands.
What should you do if there are guests in the home?
More than likely your dog will not enjoy meeting guests, especially children. Statistically, young boys are the most likely to be bitten by dogs. Children tend to do all the wrong things moving unexpectedly and looming over the pet while making direct eye contact. They put their hands out "so the cat or dog can smell it." Please, do not do this. Also, avoid direct eye contact, reaching for the cat, or looming over the pet in any way. It's best just to ignore the pet and wait for them to come around on its own. Never force a connection when a dog has had no experience around children, rather give them treats in the presence of the children and keep them safely at a distance.

Tips for Calming your dog

  • Dog Appeasing Pheremone/Adaptil - comes in a collar form or diffuser. It is the pheromone made by a lactating mother to calm her puppies. I would put this on several weeks before the stressful event so that your pet does not make an association with the collar and the event.

  • Purina Calming Care - this is a probiotic with a bacterium that has been shown in humans to calm anxiety. It may take 2-6 weeks to take effect. I've used it in the past with good success and dogs actually decreased mild anxiety. 

  • Lavender - The most important thing regarding using lavender in dogs is that a little bit goes a long way. First, put a dab on an area near your pet making sure they do not react. I often put a dab on my wrist before examining a fearful dog or cat. In a study done in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, they found that dogs spend more time resting I the car on trips and were less vocal and more relaxed. 

  • CBD - CBD seems to be a cure for everything these days. I even had someone ask me if they should give it to their puppy for no reason, like a vitamin for life! There are many promising studies including one done at Colorado State University that showed CBD decreased seizure frequency by 89%. The most important thing is to not give dogs the psychoactive component of marijuana which is THC. Since CBD and THC products are not always third-party tested for safety, I can only recommend a few. Here is one site to check out: ElleVet 

  • Composure - a mixture of natural calming agents including L-theanine, lecithin I've heard results are individual. If it works, it works well in half of the cats that use it.

  • Thunder Shirt: This calming wrap has the same effect as swaddling a baby.
  • Sensory Overload - provide a quiet, hiding place, lower lights, provide familiar toys and bedding

Routine is key. Try to keep to their walk and feeding schedule as much as possible. Allow them quiet time to rest and remember that children and animals do not always mix well. The most likely recipient of a dog bite is a male under

  • Medication - When supplements do not help ask your veterinarian for a referral to a behaviorist and discuss the need for prescription intervention. Obviously, a behavior plan should always be implemented when working with any anxious pet.
The bottom line is that you should test these prior to experiencing a stressful event. If the above strategies do not work, it might be a good time to ask your veterinarian about connecting you with a behaviorist who specializes in cats, and possibly a prescription medication for calming your cat for things like stressful and long car trips, and trips to the vet. 
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