How To Make a Dog Feel Safe: 10 Tips To TryNovember 4, 2021
All pet parents want to optimize their dog’s life experience and eliminate as much fear, stress, anxiety, and pain as they can. There is an abundance of ways to do just that.
Making your dog feel safe and secure doesn’t just mean providing them with a home and a bed. Read on to learn about all of the possible ways we can keep our dogs out of harm’s way, both mentally and physically.
1. Identify Their Triggers
Knowing what’s causing your dog to feel unsafe is the best way to begin this process. Here are some possible triggers that may cause your pup to feel a lack of security.
If you live in a chaotic home (young children in the house, vocal pet parents who are constantly shouting, people coming in and out, other pets present, so on and so forth), there is a good chance your dog will take on that stress and may start to exhibit insecure behaviors.
Similar to stress, certain traumatic events or situations in the home can cause a dog to become overly anxious to the point where they don’t want to socialize with you, other people, or other dogs. These anxieties can stem from loud noises in the house or being locked up in their crate for too many hours.
Some breeds are more fearful and anxious than others. Genetics and DNA play a large role in your dog’s levels of insecurity and angst. Dig into the genetic predisposition of your pet to find out if you own a dog that has a tendency to be more fearful.
Female dogs go through hormonal and behavioral changes when they are in heat. Dogs in heat require a bit more supervision and care, as they can become extremely anxious, aggressive, uncomfortable, and a bit more attached to you than normal. A dog’s heat cycle can contribute to them feeling unsafe or insecure.
It’s easy to see why a puppy would be more fearful of people, places, or things than an older, wiser, and more experienced dog. Senior dogs, too, are oftentimes anxious around younger dogs, as puppies have a ton of energy while senior dogs do not. Age can play a large role in what’s making your dog feel unsafe.
Once you’re able to identify what is triggering your dog to feel unsafe, it’ll be easier to take the proper steps to turn the situation around.
Understand Stress Signals
There are a handful of common stress signals that you should be able to recognize so that you know when your pet is feeling unsafe or afraid. Common stress signals are:
- Yawning repeatedly or drooling
- Changes in body posture, or their eyes, ears, and tails
If your pup is experiencing any of the above, they may be under stress or feeling anxious and unsafe.
2. Socialize Them
Socializing your dog from a young age is a good way to eliminate fears that develop early on. Even if your dog is a bit older, you should still socialize them. Create a confident canine by taking them for long walks during the day, or to a local dog park to meet other dogs. Let them sniff, wag, and play. Use positive reinforcement during the socialization process so that your pet learns that meeting new friends is an exciting thing.
Remember that gradual exposure is key. There is no need to rush the process. While it’s great that you’re socializing with your puppy, remember to be consistent throughout the dog’s lifetime. They should be socialized at all stages of life. If you’re bringing your pup to a park for the first time, keep them on the leash to acclimate them to the new environment.
3. Avoid Punishment
Punishment by no means makes a dog feel safer. It should really be avoided. We want your pups to love and trust their pet parents, and punishment creates an opposing outlook for your pet. In actuality, it just creates more fear. Avoid punishment so your dog feels safer.
4. Learn Dog Behavior
Learning the ins and outs of dog behavior will inevitably lead to a better connection with your companion. Is there a way for you to decipher your dog’s body language? What resonates with your dog, and what doesn’t? Why are they acting afraid? What excites them? Are they being aggressive because they are fearful, or is it due to something else?
Being able to answer these questions is an important part of communicating with your pup, which will ultimately make them feel better-taken care of.
5. Treat Separation Anxiety
Teaching your dog that it’s ok to separate from you on occasion is a good way to make them feel safe. Counterconditioning is one way to treat separation anxiety. Counterconditioning is the process of associating the sight of something the dog does not like, with something that the dog loves. For example, when you leave the house, give your pup a high-value item.
This could be some sort of interactive toy that’s stuffed with a premium treat like turkey or peanut butter. When you return, immediately take the high-value item away so that your dog associates your leaving with that incredible novelty you gave them when you walked out the door.
Desensitization is another way to treat separation anxiety. Step outside your door for a moment, and let your dog sit in the uncomfortable. After just a few seconds, come back in and reward your pet for their quiet and calm behavior (that’s if they stayed calm and quiet while you were on the other side of the door). Keep tacking on time (start with a few seconds, then a few minutes, so on and so forth) until they are staying quiet for the whole duration.
After some practice, your dog will feel better about you leaving and ultimately feel safer.
6. Crate Train
Crate training is known to make a dog feel more secure. Crates, when used correctly, have the potential to become your pup’s safe haven. It’s a little den for your furry friend. It’s a snug home within a home. Crate training gives dogs a sense of security and safety and helps give owners greater peace of mind.
Investing in a durable, well-built crate for your pup is a good place to start. It should be big enough for your pet to stand up and turn around. Incorporate a safe training aid that will assist with positive reinforcement and association, and make their space as comfortable as possible. You can do this by dressing the crate with a blanket or an orthopedic crate pad. Using treats and their favorite chews is another way to teach them that the crate is a great place to be.
7. Enroll in a Training Course
Consider enrolling your dog in a training course. By getting the proper training, you will obtain a better understanding of what makes your dog tick, which will ultimately improve the relationship between you and your canine companion. That strong bond between you and your pet will leave them feeling more safe and secure.
Living in this world amongst humans has certain nuances that dogs must learn to handle. Teaching your dog the basics (sit, stay, come), and giving them enough love, nurturing, and exercise will help them adapt and feel more secure. Training your pup properly will also improve social awareness, which is a great way to make your dog feel more at ease.
8. Use Calming Treats and Familiar Scents
Using calming treats and familiar scents is a great way to give your dog a better sense of security. You can use them on an ‘as needed’ basis, maybe before your dog is going to be put in a situation where they’re guaranteed to feel triggered. This could be before traveling or while a thunderstorm is occurring. Don’t forget to consult your vet before giving your dog a new brand of treat or a supplement of any kind.
Providing scents, just like calming treats, is a wonderful way to make your dog feel safe. Studies have shown that an owner’s scent activates the parts of a dog‘s brain associated with pleasure. If you’re traveling, put a piece of your clothing in your dog’s crate. Your scent will ease stresses and anxieties, and will ultimately make your dog feel safer.
9. Provide a Safe Environment
Supplying a suitable environment for your pet is a great way to make them feel safe. It will also give you the same peace of mind. Remember that dogs are curious creatures and could get themselves into trouble if placed in the wrong environment. What are some things in your household that may be of danger to your furry friend?
- Open cleaning products, or products that are within reach that could be opened by your pet
- A balcony that’s not secure, or holes in the fence in which your pet could escape
- Poisonous plants and fungi
- Small items lying around that could become choking hazards
- Loose hanging wires
The list goes on. Make sure you are setting your dog up for success by providing an environment that will keep them safe. Included in this space should be a safe and secure crate, a comfortable dog bed, and effective ventilation and temperature control.
10. Stick to the Leash
When you’re out and about, keep your dog on a leash. Let’s go through the reasons why.
For one, while you might think that your pet is trustworthy and won’t bolt, sometimes things happen. Your pet might also have a lapse in judgment. Don’t assume that they won’t run away. Even well-behaved dogs can run in front of a moving vehicle, or after a wild animal towards a street. Keep them safe by keeping them on a leash.
Dogs on a leash are less likely to get into something they can’t eat like poisonous plants, fungi, or junk food. They are also less likely to dig into another dog’s elimination, which could carry all sorts of diseases. Save yourself a vet visit by keeping your furry friend leashed up.
Lastly, the leash will protect your dog from other dogs. If your pup is leashed up when another dog approaches, they are more likely to behave well as they will feel secure. If there is a hint of aggression, it’s easier to yank your dog away if they are on a leash.
As you can see, there are numerous ways to make your pet feel safe and secure. First and foremost, you’ll want to identify your canine companion’s triggers and figure out what makes them afraid, which will allow you to get to the root of the issue.
Familiarize yourself with common stress signals so you know when your dog is triggered. Throughout the process of making them feel safe, you’ll want to avoid punishment for bad behavior. No shock or prong collars, physical harm, or screaming at your pet. This will exacerbate their fears.
Have utmost patience and understanding for your pet. Ultimately, that will make them feel the safest and secure. Pet learning takes time, so give them the time that they deserve. If you have a rescue animal, keep in mind that it may have experienced trauma before reaching your home. Pets like these could need months and months to reacclimate and feel safe again.
Socializing your pet, learning what makes them tick, treating their separation anxiety, crate training, enrolling in a training course, and using calming treats and scents are all ways to make your dog feel safe. Providing a safe environment that’s free of hazards and having patience and understanding for your animal will seal the deal.
The Diggs Team
We believe our dogs deserve safer, better designed pet products.