So far this week, we’ve talked about lots of ways to make the holidays less stressful for your dog: making time for games, heading off some potential problems at the pass, and being more thoughtful about your holiday traditions.
Just in case those aren’t enough, today I’m going to post about some more direct remedies. With anything on this list, make sure that you try them well in advance of when they’re really needed. Some may not help your dog, and some may cause unforeseen problems. This list is arranged roughly by intensity.
No list of anti-stress aids would be complete without a mention of Bach’s Rescue Remedy. Depending on your perspective, this is either fakery of the highest order or very refined alternative medicine. I have some. I’ve used it. I can’t say that I’ve seen a difference of any kind, but some people do. At worst, it’s very harmless when given as indicated and easy to administer. It comes in several formulations, including a pet-specific one–be careful not to buy the chewables, which contain xylitol.
Aromatherapy for dogs is another fairly benign solution. Does it work? Maybe, says Patricia McConnell. There are LOTS of pet-specific products on the market, and I haven’t tried any of them. Be mindful that your dog’s nose is a lot more sensitive than yours, especially if you’re using scented products in a small area, like your dog’s crate.
The Thundershirt is riding quite a wave of popularity right now. This one I’ve tried, and it does help Silas to some extent. Results, obviously, will vary dog to dog. Don’t want to spend so much money? Try the DIY T-Touch compression wrap. It’s very important that you put the wrap or shirt on before the dog is stressed, and that you periodically use it in low-stress situations. Otherwise the dog learns to associate the shirt with Bad Things Happening.
I think of DAP as an amped-up aromatherapy. Our experience with DAP was a little weird–the diffusers made no difference at all, but the collar was a miracle. Until one day, it wasn’t. After about three months, we either got a dud collar or Silas got used to it. If your house has open architecture or your dog has worse problems away from home, try the collar or the spray. If your dog spends most of his time in an enclosed room, if you have multiple dogs, or if your dog does a lot of swimming, you’re better off with the diffuser. DAP was actually recommended by my behaviorist, who did caution that the results are widely variable.
Last, but by no means least, there’s always prescription medication for dogs who really need it. Talk to your veterinarian or find a veterinary behaviorist.
Do you have a favorite stress remedy that’s not on the list?
(The fine print for the whole series: Don’t trust anyone on the internet for advice about serious training issues. If your dog has a history of biting, separation anxiety, extreme fear, resource guarding, or generalized anxiety, please get professional help.)