Being at home more often is not only having an impact on our health and wellbeing, but on our furry friends, too, with many owners reporting stressed pets.
A survey by Canabiotics (opens in new tab) found that life in lockdown is affecting our pets and adding to their anxiety levels. One in seven pet owners have had difficulty trying to relax their pet and three in five are getting distracted by their pets in the working day. Plus, as we are spending more time home working, and giving them less attention when we are around, it can leave them confused and concerned, making them more desperate than ever for our attention. Here’s how to deal with stressed pets, particulalry dogs, during this difficult time…
(And if you suspect also that your dog is depressed, then read this too)
How to calm stressed pets
#1 Make dinner time more interesting
"This is the ultimate sniffing game for dogs," says expert Suzanne Gould, from Edinburgh Holistic Dogs (opens in new tab). "It’s an alternative way to feed your dog their meal instead of their usual bowl. It's a great way to tire them out and sniffing helps dogs relax, too."
- Find a cardboard box. Fill with scrunched up paper, smaller boxes, crumpled up cardboard, empty plastic bottles and old tea towels. You can use whatever you have lying around that's safe for your dog.
- Next, scatter your dog’s meal in there and present the box to your dog. You may have to encourage them, but they will no doubt be happy to search once they have sniffed out their first treat.
- Alternatively, you could scatter your dog’s food in your garden or hallway. They will still sniff it all out to eat!
#2 Playtime is great for stressed pets
"Playtime is a vital part of your pet’s life and it’s easy to forget about in our day to day lives," says Suzanne. "So, grab your pet’s favourite toy, get on the floor and have a play. Be exciting, encouraging and have lots of fun. You can do this when you wait for the kettle to boil or when the TV ad breaks are on. After a short burst of playing with my two dogs, they settle down for a snooze."
#3 Create your own play park at home
"Create your own obstacle course in your home and/or garden," suggests Suzanne. "It provides great mental stimulation, which will be tiring, as well as relaxing.You want to aim to get your dog (or pet) to jump on, over, out of, inside and stand on lots of different things. You can even create a jump with two dining room chairs and a broom handle. Get your dog to crawl under a table and weave around furniture – there are lots of possibilities. Think of anything you can grab and get your pet moving. Use treats around the course can also encourage them."
#4 Try to relax to help stressed pets
"Our pets are a great source of comfort in these strange times," says Suzanne. "Our pets pick up on our energy, so if you’re feeling stressed or anxious (opens in new tab) then it’s possible they are feeling the same.My top tip to help humans relax is using the box breathing method. Breath in for the count of four, hold the air in your lungs for a count of four, breath out for the count of four and then hold your lungs empty for the count of four. This is very soothing, and will benefit your pet in the process."
#5 Give stressed pets a massage
"There’s nothing better than a good massage, is there? It is just as important for your pet as physical exercise to help them keep healthy," says Suzanne. "Plus, it’s a good excuse to have a sit down too. This will be super relaxing for your pet, it will help them release any tension and help with any anxiety."
#6 Herbal cures can help stressed pets
Is your dog stressed out? "If you haven’t heard of it, Bach Rescue Remedy (opens in new tab) is a natural way to help with stress, calm nerves and aid with relaxation," says Suzanne. "It’s perfectly safe for dogs and all you need to do is include a few drops to your dog’s water. It helps restore your dogs natural emotional state so they can relax."
#7 Enjoy a workout with your pet
"It’s important that your dog is still getting some good physical exercise, and we all know how tiring going up and down stairs is," says Suzanne. "So why not spend 10 minutes going up and down your stairs with your pet. It is a great cardio workout (opens in new tab), gets your dog moving differently compared to flat walks and it will wear you out too!"
Have a puppy? "Bear in mind puppies should not be using stairs so wait until your dog is at least one year old before starting this," adds Suzanne
Faye M Smith is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience in the magazine industry. Her continued work in the area of natural health won her the coveted title of the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) Journalist of the Year Award 2021. Currently Health Editor across several brands including woman&home, Woman and Woman’s Own, Faye specialises in writing about mental health, the menopause, and sex and relationships.
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