Dog Anxiety Archives - Hot Diggity! Pet Sitting

Last year, Hot Diggity! introduced an exciting new offering to all our clients; Forest Pack Hikes! This isn’t a normal potty break or breath of fresh air, this is a full-on socialization and sensory-rich adventure for your pups. When Pack Club dogs realize that it’s a Hike Day, they get as excited as if they’re going to Doggie Disneyland.

All dogs go through an initial consultation where we determine if they’re ready for Pack Club and if so, which personality pack they fit best. Dogs must go through this approval process to make sure that everyone has a great time on the hike and that the pups who are more interested in the smells at every corner don’t slow down the speedsters who want to crack their previous distance record.

On the hikes with our trained Pack Hike Leaders, the dogs get to explore a variety of trails depending on the day, and always on-leash. Each trail offers its different scents, sounds, and sights. This increased stimulation is beneficial for your dog’s mental and physical well-being. Instead of seeing the same things day after day at the route near your home, dogs on hikes get to explore a treasury of experiences that a forest has to offer. Over here are deer smells! Over there is an owl hooting! There are so many rocks and plants to sniff!

Currently, we have morning (7-noon) and afternoon (12-5) pack hikes three days a week, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. This means that while you’re stuck at the office, your dog is having the time of their life roaming the forest with a pack of friends. You might not be able to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air from your desk, but your dog will be savoring that fresh forest oxygen and can tell you all about it after work.

Bella the labradoodle kisses our award winning Portland pet sitter and pack leader Alex on the face in his car as they're getting ready to drive home after a fun pack hike adventure

This is the only service we offer where we take multiple dogs from different families out at one time (unless you’ve signed up for Buddy Walks with a friend). Each pack has a maximum of six members, but the number will vary between packs and days. Normally we love offering specialized individual attention, but spending time with other canines is beneficial, too. Without regular socialization, dogs can become shy and reactive towards others of their own kind. This behavior often leads to further isolation from other dogs, and further behavioral problems that will then have to be addressed by a professional dog trainer. With Pack Club your dog(s) can enjoy the companionship of other pups well-suited to their personalities. While on their adventure, good behavior is rewarded through positive reinforcement training by our Pack Leaders. 

Some important things to remember before applying for Pack Club:

  • We require that dogs be up to date on their vaccinations and on their flea and tick prevention.
  • They need to have a normal, non-extendable, leash and tags on their collars with accurate information.

Even though our Pack Hike Leaders are extremely responsible and excellent pet caretakers, we just want to be prepared as best as we can and for your dog to be as protected as they can.

When the fun hike is said and done and everyone is all tuckered out from the great exercise and sensory experiences, our Pack Leaders give your dogs a towel wipe-down, check them for any little pesky passengers that may have tried to hitch a ride, make sure everyone is hydrated, and then load the gang up and take everyone home where they’ll probably be sleeping and dreaming of the fun they had on their hike until you come back home from work.

If you want to apply to get your pup accepted into Pack Club, just email us with your interest or give us a call! We still have a few spaces available and would love for your pup to join in on the fun. Three dogs go on a hike out in a field leading to a forest in the distance with their pack leader

If you have brought a new dog home and you find that he misses you terribly when you are gone, you have probably already discovered how helpful dog sitting and dog walking can be. Dogs by nature like to be active, and feel a strong need to be near their humans. So when they’re alone for too many hours, they can take out their frustration and energy on the furniture. In this post we highlight a few ways to help your dog associate entertainment with something other than your favorite Edwardian chair.

The Importance of Exercise

Your dog should ideally be taking several walks a day and at least a couple of nice long walks. They should have the opportunity to chase after a ball, run over a large safe surface, and enjoy smelling plants, trees and surfaces, as they love doing.

One of the main reasons for undesirable behavior, is a lack of physical activity. If your dog is acting up and you are at work all day just call us! We can help get your dog out on the town whether its a walk down the street, playing ball in the backyard, or even better- going on a whole half-day pack hike.

Even when at home outside of walk times your dog can still be entertained with safe chew toys for dogs. Make sure you use trusted brands only, since cheaper toys can chip and break off, or pose a possible choking risk for pooches. Puppies especially should have a wide range of toys, because they continue to teeth until they are about eight months old. You can also fill up a Kong toy with frozen xylitol-and-salt-free peanut butter to keep them hard at work for a few hours.

Check for Separation Anxiety

If your dog only misbehaves when you are away from the home, bringing home another dog (which will certainly provide welcome company for your pooch) won’t solve the problem of chewing.

As is the case with humans, desensitization can work well for separation anxiety. This treatment involves exiting the door for a few seconds, coming back in, lengthening your absence to a minute, then a few minutes, then half an hour etc., as a way of letting your dog know that absence is always temporary and that you are not abandoning them.

If you think your dog might have this condition it is important to speak to your veterinarian who may recommend treatment in severe cases. The key is to enhance your dog’s wellbeing through a combination of approaches. Exercise, for instance, is always a good approach.

Symptoms of Separation Anxiety

In addition to chewing, a dog with separation anxiety will often show other symptoms, including howling and barking, trying to escape, doing his necessities indoors, and pacing. One of the reasons it is so important to see your vet is that these behaviors may be caused by other conditions (including infection, bladder stones, neurological problems, etc.).

There are certain events that can bring about this type of anxiety, including a change of guardian, change in schedule, moving residence, etc. The death of a family member can also spark different behaviors.

Spraying Furniture as a Deterrent

When chewing is occasional, you can nip it in the bud by spraying your furniture with a natural spray, which you can make at home using essential oils. Blend around 1 cup of water with around 10 drops of citrus essential oils* and white distilled vinegar. The bonus of this type of spray is that (unlike sprays made with chemicals) it won’t contribute to indoor air pollution, yet it will lend your home a beautiful, natural fragrance; make sure you use therapeutic grade citrus essential oils, which are safe for dogs and humans alike.

To stop your dog from chewing on your furniture, provide him with plenty of activity, ensure he has toys to let out his chewing instinct on, and try natural deterrents you can make at home for a small price.

*WARNING for cat owners: Essential oils, including citrus oils, contain phenols which are harmless towards dogs and humans, but highly toxic to cats. Inhaling phenols or getting them on their fur and licking the phenols off will cause symptoms of toxicity and require veterinary intervention. Search for cat-friendly no-bite sprays such as Grannick’s Bitter Apple Spray to use at home.

Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

With a New Year comes lots of fireworks, and lots of fireworks means some possible serious anxiety for your pets. Here are a few friendly reminders on how to keep your pets calm when the clock strikes twelve:

  1. Definitely keep your pets indoors before the fireworks are set to begin.
  2. If possible, keep your pets with you. They will feel the most at ease in your presence.
  3. If you plan on being away from home, avoid leaving your pet alone. Having someone around with whom your pets are familiar with is a great alternative. If you plan on leaving them at a boarding facility, it’s better to be sure they have been there before. It may give them extra anxiety if it’s a new experience combined with the loud noises.
  4. If your home is an area where you expect to hear a lot of fireworks go off, it’s not a bad idea to start preparing your pet by acclimating them to the sound of fireworks. Playing firework recordings or videos will help prep your pets a bit more experience with the noise instead of completely catching them off guard the night of the celebrations.
  5. Drown out the loud booms by having some music playing inside the house or having the TV on at a decently loud volume. Make sure you have blinds and curtains closed in the house.
  6. Keep in mind that many pets love to crawl into confined spaces when they are scared. Dogs in particular may want access to their kennel or to hide under the bed. Allow them access to these spaces to seek out extra comfort.
  7. For pets who already have major anxiety, you may want to ask your vet about some medication options for sedation and/or look into purchasing a ThunderShirt.
  8. Provide your pets with lots of extra exercise that day to help wear them out.
  9. Give your pets something fun to play and occupy their attention such as a Kong toy filled with treats or xylitol-free dog-safe peanut butter for your dogs or new catnip toys for your cats.

Remember, all pets should have their collar on with identification tags in case they do escape and get scared away. Even better would be to have your pets microchipped too with up to date information. New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July are the two biggest days of the year for pets on the loose. By taking some precautions to comfort them we can help ensure that our furry friends won’t be lost and scared at the beginning of the New Year!

Sources: positively.com, cesarsway.com

This is a special guest post by the Synergy Behavior Solutions Team, a stellar veterinary behavior and training team dedicated to improving the lives of pets with behavioral issues. To learn more about them, read on and then visit them at their website.

It is not unusual for dogs to be worried or fearful of new people in their homes. For some dogs these behaviors are more pronounced when the owners are present. Some dogs are more worried when they are alone and a stranger (like a new dog walker) comes into the house. Here are a couple tips to help your dog feel more comfortable.

The first step to helping your dog be more comfortable is to learn how to “speak” dog by reading your dog’s body language. Dogs have a lot to communicate, if we just open our eyes to see them, instead of just our listening with our ears. Many people recognize the overly fearful dog who is hiding in the corner or the ones who are barking and lunging at people. What many people miss are the more subtle signs of stress and worry they might be showing before they are “screaming” (shaking, barking) with their body language. More subtle signs might include: avoiding eye contact, pinning ears back along the head, panting when it’s not hot, or refusing food. If your dog is giving you those more subtle signs of stress, remove them from the situation before they feel the need to escalate to more aggressive behavior. To learn more about dog body language and learn more about how to speak “dog” check out http://www.ispeakdog.org.

An essential part of dog care is knowing the dog's preference for treats or their dietary needs. Our Portland dog sitters and dog walkers always make sure to know these critical details!

The second step is to let your dog choose when to (or when not to) interact with the new person. Frequently, strangers want to make friends instantly with your dog. Like many people, dogs need time to warm up to strangers. When we let our dogs choose if they want to meet a person, it can be on their terms, when they feel comfortable. Don’t force your dog to interact by dragging them to meet the person, or even having the person hold out treats. Once your dog wants to approach the new person, have them ignore them. Have them avoid staring at the dog. Reaching out or leaning towards or over them can be an invasion of their personal space and scary. Instead let your dog sniff, approach and retreat as they deem necessary without physical interaction. Let your dog set their own time table of comfort. It may take minutes, it may be hours and it may be days. Slow and steady is the safest path to making new friends.

The next step is letting your dog choose how to interact with the new person. This is where reading body language is very important. Some dogs might like to play a game of treat tossing, where the person throws a treat away from them and your dog gets to find it. Then when they start approaching the person again, they toss another treat away. With this game, the dog is being rewarded for approaching but they do not need to come all the way to the new person. They are getting a double reward of the treat and also increasing distance away from the new person.

Some dogs eventually like to be touched. We suggest “touch testing” for these dogs. Start petting their chest or shoulder, but only for one to 3 seconds (yes seconds!) and stop. See if the dog moves closer or maybe nudges your hand, that is a yes from the dog to please continue. If when you stop the dog steps away, then it is time to stop touching them and give them a break. Do not encourage them to come back, wait, remember it’s their choice.

A cute dog cuddles their favorite Portland dog walkerThese are just a few helpful tips to get you started understand what your dog is saying and helping them be more comfortable. If your dog is showing signs of aggression towards strangers we recommend keeping everyone safe and avoiding interaction with strangers. Then, we recommend reaching out to your dog’s veterinarian, then an experienced reward-based behavior professional, for suggestions on training and behavior modification. Remember that using punishment may suppress reactivity towards people, but won’t address the underlying reasons (the emotional causes) for the negative behavior. There is a lot that can be done to decrease a dog’s anxiety and improve their relationships with people, so don’t wait! Ask for help.