You heave a sigh of relief as soon as you cross your home’s threshold. Your pet likely feels the same way, as those four walls create a protective, peaceful sanctuary from the terrors of the outside world. If your four-legged friend is reduced to a quivering pile of fur when she encounters new people, loud noises, or different places, help put her at ease by using the following calming techniques at home before taking your show on the road:
#1: Practice what you preach
If you’re worried about your mother-in-law visiting, or the thunderstorm raging outside, your pet is going to pick up on your anxiety. “Emotional contagion,” the term used to describe the spread of fear in a group, is common in social species. Project a calm image, take a few deep breaths, and your pet will relax with you.
#2: Treat the terror
After a stressful day, there’s nothing like a dish of hearty comfort food to soothe your soul. Special treats help ease pets’ anxiety, as well. A Kong filled with peanut butter, a LickiMat smeared with canned food, or a long-lasting yak chew can distract your pet from her troubles. Tasty treats can go a long way toward alleviating anxiety because they form a positive association between the stressor and the treat.
#3: Fake it ’til you make it
Rewarding your pet for calm behaviors helps her learn to chill out. Clicker training is an excellent tool for teaching pets to relax. When you notice your pet lying quietly or observing something that is usually frightening without showing anxiety, click and toss her a treat. Over time, you will build up a repertoire of calm behaviors in unsettling circumstances that your pet can perform, such as lying quietly on a mat, looking at you, or a simple sit and stay. Redirecting your pet’s attention to alternate behaviors instead of focusing on scary situations will help ease her anxiety.
#4: Exercise the demons
If you can’t exorcise the demons causing fear in your pet, exercise them. A pet who routinely plays and exercises for fun is a happier, more relaxed companion. Physical activity releases endorphins, which promote a feeling of well-being and burn off nervous energy. Playing games with your pet also helps strengthen your bond, making training easier and encouraging your pet to look to you for direction. Cats, in particular, respond well to games, such as interactive fishing poles or wand toys, that appeal to their predatory nature and help reduce stress by giving them an outlet for their hunting instincts.
When trying to manage your pet’s stress and anxiety, you’re not alone. Schedule an appointment to discuss anti-anxiety medications, supplements, and management techniques to turn your petrified pet into a calm companion.