This week I was reminded of the value of a stress-free dog.
During vacation this last week, Leila and I, along with our 3 dogs, enjoyed some down time together at a beach house we recently rented. Working as much as I do this “family time” was pure enjoyment.
But what if our dogs were all stressed out about the change? We could not have relaxed at all if our dogs were nervous or stressed about being in this or any other new environment instead of “in the comfort of their own home.”
Dogs are very sensitive to changes in their environment and can absorb the stress felt in each other and themselves in that environment. Ours sailed through the 7 days at the beach house.
Why We Had Stress-Free Dogs
We simply kept the routine they follow at home while on vacation with our dogs.
Routine is a key element in developing an obedient, stress-free dog. Your dog needs a structure and framework within which to feel secure at home or away with you. To eliminate the stress in our dogs, we keep a few things in mind when we hit the road with our dogs. Here’s how we eliminate stress in our dogs.
We keep as many of our dog’s routines as we can on a regular schedule. We also make sure they get regular physical and mental exercise and, We both include some form of obedience training as a part of their daily activities.
Routines on a Regular Schedule Make Stress-Free Dogs
Although we wanted to “sleep in” at the beach, Sophie wakes everyone up at 6:30 – just like home. So our pack got up at 6:30 a.m. every morning at the beach house.
We used the “lemons into lemonade” approach by making a pot of campfire coffee and enjoying the sunrise on the beach. They stayed on schedule and we got a morning cup-o-jo as we watched the sun rise.
Wake-up time, mealtimes and our walks are all at the same time – even stuffed Kong toys after our walks! When we think of the possible consequences of forgetting their routines on vacation, it’s a small price to pay.
The gain: no dog problems. That’s a win-win for everyone.
Longer walks means tired dogs and a longer nap for me on the return if I choose.
Regular Physical and Mental Exercise Reduce Stress in Dogs
There is no doubt that regular sustained, rhythmic aerobic exercise is good for dogs. It is also a great stress buffer. We try to structure our walks. By that I mean that the first and last one-third of the walk is kept at a very brisk pace by our side. The middle of our walk is their personal time to meander and sniff all the great new smells that the beach and salt air breeze bring to their noses. Once we got back, they stayed psyched and ready to explore again on our next walk!
Back at the beach house Leila is beating my butt at Yahtzee while Sammy “bones up” on his own version of that game. Instead of rolling dice, he is rolling his version of the challenging Bob-A-Lot toy. The object of his game is to roll it on the floor with enough finesse to accomplish two goals: get “all the food” to come out and keeping it from rolling under the furniture – a major bummer!
Games like this create mental fatigue. After playing this game, Sammy sacks out for an hour and we get more self-time for us. Yet another win-win deal! The amount of food I put into Sammy’s toy is subtracted from his next meal portion.
Use Obedience Training to Have Stress-Free Dogs
I know, you’re probably thinking: “our dogs are going to be bummed-out with work and I should have left that at home, right?” Obedience training doesn’t have to be boring or drudgery for us or our dogs. Here’s how we avoid that.
At the beach house we sat across the room from each other calling our dogs to us getting a sit and down. This is followed by praise and treat. Outside we did the same thing on the wrap-around porch. Sometimes we called them in a straight line (from one rocking chair to the other) and other times we called them from out of sight around the corner. Following these good sits and downs, we praised and treated all three.
On beach walks we did sit-stays and continued to walk away from our dogs and then called them to us. The key is keeping all these little sessions fun but very short. Two to three minutes tops. We use food treats at first to guarantee good results in each new environment and by mid-week or sooner we were off food treats – even around the occasional passing dog or treasure hunter looking for that perfect sea shell.
It’s a Wrap!
The bottom line is these tips are pretty straightforward, simple to understand concepts and principles that take no time and would be easy to implement.
If you are looking for strategies and solutions that will work for you the next time you travel with your dog, just keep these three tips in mind to insure both you and your dog enjoy stress-free time off!
Together We Can Raise A Happy and Obedient Dog
Jim Burwell, is Houston’s most respected dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 10,000 clients. Jim takes the science of dog training and shows you how to make it work with your family and dog. He gives you the ability to get great behavior from your dog.