Monday, October 29, 2012

Susan Sharpe’s Tips for Helping your Dog “Weather” Hurricane Sandy


1. Breathe.
Dogs first pick up on our body language, state of mind, and the energy in the room. When things are chaotic and you’re feeling stressed, so are they. While you can’t control the weather conditions or the fact that you may be staying at a different location, you can allow yourself and your pets a few moments of calm. Even if you’re sitting on a cot in a temporary housing shelter, sit quietly with your family and pets for just a few minutes. Breathe deeply. You’ll notice your pets (and children) will respond similarly and relax. Just giving them (and yourself) a few moments of calm will help lower the stress levels.


2. Secure.
ID your pets. Be sure your pets have ID on their collars and that it’s readable. Oils from their coats can erase information more quickly than you think. Double check their collars are securely fastened.

Use crates/carriers. Cats should be in their carriers/crates. If you’re concerned you may need to evacuate the house quickly, put your cat(s) in the carrier before the storm approaches. That way you can easily grab and go if needed. Your dog should feel secure in his/her crate. You may want to move the crate to be in the same room you are during the storm to help your dog be more comfortable. If he/she is showing signs of stress, cover the crate with blankets but allow fresh air to circulate. Provide peanut-butter-stuffed toys or other toys/treats that will occupy him/her.


3. Storm Anxiety.
Wrap Him. Use Anxiety Wrap, Quiet Dog, or any other tool you have that helps relax your dog at the first sign of storm anxiety. As usual, once you apply Anxiety Wrap or Quiet Dog, don’t interact with your dog. Remain calm and neutral otherwise you may risk increasing your dog’s anxiety level. If your dog begins to run anxiously throughout the house, crate him or tether him with a leash to a fixed object where he feels protected to avoid having his adrenaline level rise further. Some dogs are task-oriented and may fare better if leashed and walked through the house practicing commands. Use the house like an obstacle course and give lots of juicy treats as you go. If your dog prefers a dark closet, allow him/her to use it as a safe place as long as he’s not being destructive. You know your dog best and know which approach is best.

Other Tips. If you have electricity: a) gently place cotton ball in each ear to muffle the storm sounds; and b) turn on the TV/radio/van/dryer/washing machine to muffle the storm sounds and provide a familiar one to help comfort them.

If lightning/thundering: dampen Anxiety Wrap to prevent static charges from scaring the dog; close the window curtains and also turn on outside and inside lights to help mask the lightning flashes.


4. Travel Anxiety.
Calm and Contain. Use Anxiety Wrap, Quiet Dog, or any tool you have to help relax your dog. You want to associate any change/new thing to = “I get yummy treats!” in your dog’s mind. You can always cut back on your dog’s daily food ration to make up for the extra treats. If you’re temporarily staying in a different environment, give your dog time to adjust in a quiet spot if possible. If your dog is fearful by nature, now’s not the time to try to socialize him/her. Provide plenty of “safe space” and avoid having people approach him/her.

If you are getting separated from your pets, provide them with blankets/clothing with your scent on it and their favorite toy to help ease the time away.

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