WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins
WE PLANT THE "SEEDS OF IDEAS" IN DOG OWNERS MINDS - THESE IDEAS EVENTUALLY BLOSSOM INTO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF DOG BEHAVIOUR - Sally Hopkins

Relaxing Room

It is good to introduce a ROUTINE where the dog and handler can rest and relax together at specific times of the day, where the dog is not asked to do anything apart from relax and enjoy the handler's attention and company (usually watching the TV).

By consistently and calmly rewarding the dog for lying down and relaxing with the family, the dog becomes calmer and does not feel the need to make Decisions about what it or the humans should be doing next.

It is important not to play with any toys or do any training at these times, as this will then confuse the dog about whether it should be resting or expect you to ask it to do something at any moment.

Begin by only allowing the dog a few minutes in the room and gradually build up the amount of time that the dog can relax and rest with you. It is learning that self control and reducing its stress levels are rewarded with you being calm and relaxed with the dog as well.

In these "quiet time sessions" some dogs benefit from having a house line on their harness and having it wrapped around the handler's foot so that it cannot wander around the room but relax by the handler's side and enjoy being stroked and praised for its calmness. After a couple of weeks the dog learns to enjoy these relaxing moments and does not need to have a houseline on to restrict its movements.

THE DOG'S OWN REST AREA

This is one of the most important ways of reducing the levels of FASEDUP (stress) in a dog. Every dog needs a place where it can rest and relax and where it feels comfortable and secure. Sadly, many dog owners believe that providing their dog with a dog bed is all that it requires to rest and sleep deeply, and are unaware of how important the positioning of the bed is. The dog's rest area needs to be -

SAFE & SECURE FOR THE DOG
The dog's resting area needs to be placed where the dog will not be disturbed by anyone approaching it, or walking past too closely, so that the dog does not feel anxious of being disturbed or in danger of being accidentally trodden on.

Here is a little Chihuahua in its "den" underneath the furniture and well away from humans clumsy big feet!

LEFT ALONE
If the dog is resting don't be tempted to keep calling it or giving it things to do - let it rest and relax in peace. This is especially so in a busy household, where family members come and go throughout the day and have no idea of whether the dog is fully rested and keen to play, or over tired and in need of some quality sleep.

AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE FROM VISUAL, SOUND OR SCENT STIMULATION
Avoid placing your dog's rest area in busy areas such as -

  • hallways
  • near doorways
  • beside windows that the dog can see out
  • close to other dog's beds or rest areas.

This is why indoor cages (see Cars) are so popular with dogs as they can be covered with a thin sheet so that air can still circulate into the cage but the sheeting blocks out the sights going on around it allowing the dog to rest properly.

Another benefit of indoor cages is that the dog does not have to make any DECISIONS for itself - it cannot do anything to stimulate its senses (apart from chew or play with its favourite Mental Stimulation toy, such as a Kong, which it should only be given when in its cage) and therefore will be more likely to rest and sleep.

RADIO OR TV
Some dogs become very sound sensitive through long-term stress. They benefit from having a TV or radio left playing on low to medium volume in the room where the dog can relax, so that the sounds from outside, or elsewhere in the house, are not so obvious. Some dogs prefer talk channels to music ones as many dogs relax quicker listening to subdued human voices.

COMFORTABLE
It doesn't matter how much money you spend on a dog bed, how pretty it looks, or how practical it is - all that matters to the dog is that it can sleep comfortably in any position it chooses - curled up tight, stretched out, legs propped up against a wall, etc. Is there also the space for the dog to stand, or sit? Does your dog have these choices and opportunities? If not then your dog may not be sleeping properly and the bed/rest area may even be causing health problems due to the lack of space.

Other factors to AVOID when choosing a dog bed or rest area are -

  • Drafts and Cold
  • Heat sources (eg. Too close to a boiler, fire or radiator; in direct sunlight without the option of shade)
  • Bedding which retains moisture and has no opportunity to dry in-between the dog's rest time.
  • Strong man-made scents (eg. Fabric softeners, chemicals used in cleaning & disinfectant products) which overpower the poor dog's sensitive sense of smell. Wash your dog's bedding with non-biological and unscented washing products.
  • Cleaning it too often! Dogs feel more secure and sleep better when sleeping in an area that has their own individual scent.
  • "Scary" fillings (eg. Dog beds filled with beans, polystyrene, or crackly materials) which make strange sounds and movements when the dog lies or moves on them.

GOOD OR BAD ASSOCIATIONS?
As the Memory section of this web site explains, dogs use their senses to make decisions as to whether they are in a "good" or "bad" places. We can reduce a dog's stress level by ensuring that they have good first impressions of their rest area and that we avoid any sensory triggers which may make the dog worried.

  • Puppies - Give the breeder an old towel or piece of material which has your scent on it. You can also add pieces of material with the scent of the other members of your family (including pets). As well as introducing these new scents to your puppy, so that it feels comfortable with you when it meets you, the material will also pick up the scent of its mother and litter mates as well. When the puppy is brought to its new home its special piece of material can be placed in the new rest area, so that it does not smell strange and alien. This is an ideal first impression.
     
  • Rehomed dogs - The same principle can be used when rehoming a dog. The new family's scent can be left for the dog to get used to and can help to build up a strong bond (especially when the Treat Box method is also used by the kennel staff and then the new family)
     
  • Dogs sleeping in a strange place (eg. Boarding kennels, hotel rooms, visiting your friends or relatives) can also benefit from sleeping on bedding that has a strong scent of "home", family and their own distinct scent.
     
  • A DAP Defuser may also be of help to build up good associations for your puppy or dog when it is anxious or stressed, but be careful not to overwhelm the rest area with the pheromone.

 

This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).

 

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