Back To School Doggie Blues

dog-boy-reading-300x230It’s that wonderful time of year again where the kids go back to school and everyone’s routine has changed. Your schedule is packed full with little to no time to even take a breath. You’ve got to pack lunches, get the kids to school, drop the kids off at soccer practice, pick them up, feed the family, and then ahhhhh sit down on the couch for a few minutes before going back to bed and doing it all over again tomorrow. Sound familiar?

Fall is a busy time of year! It’s among the craziest for us at The Dog Haus as we constantly get last minute calls from clients begging us to take their dog because they have absolutely no time to exercise their mutt and he’s chewed the couch…again!!!

Being so busy often means dog walks come last on the “to-do list.” Unfortunately for our pets this is not only frustrating but stressful. Suddenly everyone in the pack leaves for hours on end all day long and the dog is all alone with nothing to do. With so much stored up energy, they wander around, bored as hell, only to find a shoe that smells just like you so they carry it around and feeling frustrated release their excess energy by cDog-Chewing-Shoeshewing it to bits. This is not a blatant screw you, but pretty much the only way they have to burn energy and at the same time sooth themselves. When this happens, take a good hard look at how little time you may be spending with your pooch. I still remember when I first got Carmen she would go through the garbage any time she felt she didn’t get a long enough walk that day. It was sad and hard for me to realize that I really shouldn’t punish her whenever she did this, instead I took her feedback and would do better the next day. Keep in mind that dogs have very few means to communicate with us. Any time you notice some bizarre or naughty behaviour, pay attention to what may have changed in your dog’s life. Did someone move out and go to college? Did your work hours change meaning you don’t walk the dog as long? Are you too tired to take the dog out at night when you get home? Your dog is speaking up to say his/her needs have not been met lately.

Some dogs experience depression and anxiety when the kids go back to school and their routine changes. It’s important that you not neglect your dog during this busy time so here are my suggestions to help you through this change.

  1. Tire your dog BEFORE dropping kids off at school and going to work. Better yet, walk your dog to school with the kids instead of driving – my personal favourite because I love getting two birds stoned at once 😉 plus it’s good for the environment!
  2. Use time with the dog as a stress reliever for you both – we all need to take time to relax which we rarely do. Come on a Meditation Walk with me to learn more on how to do this (next one is September 9th, 2018 10am at Hillside Park).
  3. Have fun together and play some games! Being with your dog should be rewarding to you both and play is a great way to bond.
  4. Redo some basic training – with everyone out of the house separation anxiety often creeps up. The best way to avoid this is to remind your dog of who is leader so that he doesn’t stress while you are away. It is also a way to provide mental stimulation and tire out your dog. You can always sign up for Dog Haus Training Essentials to learn more on how to be your dog’s leader and provide them with the exercise, discipline and affection they need.
  5. Bring your dog to The Dog Haus or another dog daycare that has full day training and socialization for your dog. That way your dog is out of the house so he cannot destroy things and is being fulfilled by getting exercise, socialization and mental stimulation.
  6. Hire a dog walker. If you are unable to walk your dog pay someone else to do it. Having a backyard is not enough. Dogs need to be walked everyday, without exception!
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Sunday Fun-day at Woofstock 2014

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What a wonderful day we had today! The sun was shining and Toronto was hopping with people and pets all gathering for Woofstock – North America’s largest dog festival! Every summer this fabulous event attracts thousands to come and spoil their dogs rotten with treats, toys, and apparel. But, that’s not why we go. Woofstock is much more to us; it has become our little family tradition.

The first time I ever went to the festival, I had only had Carmen for 2 weeks! It was quite an outing for us. With so many people and dogs and sights and sounds I knew it would be a fantastic way to socialize her and earn her trust. I was completely surprised to see how this little mutt from Mexico was so well adjusted that she just wandered through the crowds no problem, following me as I lead her down busy city streets. I could tell it was a lot for her to take in though when she was exhausted just after half an hour. Since then, we’ve been every year, marking this Woofstock our 4th anniversary and it was just as fun as the first time.

We still go to this event, partly because of the nostalgia, but also because we still find it a great way to social our dog as confident as she already is. Plus Carmen loves it! No Woofstock event is ever the same either. There are always different dogs, new smells, new goodies, and new places. Carmen gets to greet people and other dogs, and take in all that is this wonderful festival has to offer. This is what has helped her to be the little social butterfly that she is.

Today we spend 3 hours enjoying the sunshine and company of fellow passionate dog owners. Carmen slept the whole ride home and is still exhausted! Not only did we all have an absolute blast, but Carmen’s exercise, mental, and social needs were all meet. Mission complete! What did you and your dog get up to this weekend?

Fireworks, thunderstorms, and loud noises, oh my!

The best defence is a good offence. This awesome piece of advice believe it or not works wonders with dogs, especially those who are anxious around loud noises. Being able to predict what your dog is going to do before he does it, like how he may react to a sudden BOOM, will help to curb the behaviour. That means being aware of your dog and their surroundings to prevent negative behaviours so that you don’t have to correct them. Always be 10 steps ahead of them. Easy enough, right?

Sometimes it is! You may not be able to predict thunderstorms (nor rely on weather reporters for any help) but you can prepare yourself and your dog for when there will be fireworks. On holiday long weekends you can expect there will be fireworks that light up the sky once it’s dark out. The loud noises accompanied by such a beautiful sight can be frightening for your furry friend. Dogs may pace, shake, become destructive, or even run away. No one wants to see their pet in distress, so what exactly can you do?

Fireworks at Disney - Thomas Hawk, Flickr

Fireworks at Disney – Thomas Hawk, Flickr

Keep your dog indoors and whatever you do, fight the urge to caudal your dog! I cannot stress this enough. Petting and telling him, “it’s okay buddy” actually reinforces the dog’s anxious reaction. Instead of comforting him, you are confirming that the dog is reacting appropriately. You have now trained your dog to be frightened of loud noises. Instead, be proactive and exhaust your dog well before the fireworks go off. If your dog usually goes for an hour walk a day, go for a 3 hour hike! Tire your dog out so that he won’t even notice the sounds. During the fireworks it is important that you stay calm yourself. If you are startled by the sounds your dog will think he is supposed to do the same. Dogs pick up very easily on our energy so if you are frightened it will rub off on your dog. Try playing loud music to drown out the sound and distract you both.

Always remember that being proactive helps and you can even prepare your dog for certain situations before they happen. If you have a puppy and you don’t want him to be startled by loud noises, try desensitizing him to the sounds by playing thunderstorms and firework clips off the internet in your own home when he is in a calm, relaxed state. Act normally and if you remain calm your dog will too. Walking your puppy on busy streets where there are buses, cars honking, and kids on skateboards are also ways to socialize your dog and expose them to unpredictable sounds that could spook them later in life if they are not used to them.

Try out these methods this Victoria Day when the fireworks sound. Hope you and your pet have a safe and enjoyable long weekend!