I’m really happy with how well my dog Mojito has taken to car rides. He is a lap dog first and foremost, so our first few trips left him confused and dejected about being forced to sit in the back seat all alone. We worked through it, though, because letting a dog sit with the driver or even in the front seat is incredibly dangerous for everyone in the unfortunate event of an accident. Besides being a potential distraction up there, a dog is in danger of being hurt by the vehicle’s airbags should they go off.

Mo in his Bolster Seat, waiting to buckle up

Mo in his Bolster Seat, waiting to buckle up

Luckily, Mo does not have a fear of the car itself, or seem to suffer from motion sickness, so I wasn’t totally starting from scratch with him. We began by taking him along on short trips, like to get gas. I would sit in the back seat with Mo, who was tethered to the seat belt with a harness. Every time he tried to get up and crawl into my lap, I had him sit back down in his proper spot, then reward him with a small treat. A lot of talking and reassurance isn’t necessary – it can reinforce his belief that this is something to get upset over. Just keep calmly reminding him to sit or lay down.

At first, I was putting him back in his spot constantly, over and over and over and then over again. I really had to ignore his sad whines, flat ears, and the huge why-me eyes, but after our third or fourth 20 minute drive, he caught on. Once we started on the road and began to pretend he wasn’t there, he would sigh and lay down all on his own.
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Comfort Zone Plug-inJust like humans, dogs can also get stressed. Dog stress and anxiety can result in undesirable behavior and can lead to health issues. Here’s a compilation of tips that worked for my friends or me. Remember, your dog’s veterinarian should be your #1 resource for major dog stress issues.

Physical Exercise – If you’ve ever went for a walk when really stressed, this tip is obvious. Exercise is a great recipe for stress management for humans and pets. Take your pet for a walk, play ball or whatever your dog likes to do. Your tired dog will be less anxious, and exercise is good for you too!

Mental Exercise – Boredom can lead to bad behavior, so here’s a few ideas to keep your dog’s mind challenged.

  • Toys, especially puzzle toys, can be very entertaining and mind-stimulating.
  • Teaching him tricks makes him “work” and provides mental exercise that all dogs need.
  • During our daily walk, I have a certain stretch that I refer to as Kobe’s “newspaper” area. He gets to sniff as much as he wants, during which time I think he’s discovering what has been happening in the neighborhood!

Play it Cool – When you return home, keep the event low-keyed and unexciting. If you get all excited and give your dog energetic attention when you arrive back home, he’ll quickly learn to get excited and ready for play every time you (and others) walk through that door. Try a calm hello with a pat on the head. Go about your business, and give him some more calm attention 10 minutes later.

Take it Gradually – If your dog experiences anxiety or gets stressed when you are gone, start by going outside where he cannot see you for 5 minutes. Don’t make an issue of walking out the door or coming back in. Gradually lengthen your absence.

Good-Bye Treat (or Not) – What works for my dog is to give him a treat every day when I leave for work. Although he’s about to be home alone for several hours, he gets excited because he knows he gets a treat. However, some owners find that it is better to stick with the play it cool approach, and not make an issue out of your departure. Experiment with dog treats and figure out if this type of ritual helps your dog.

Calming Products
– The Comfort Zone Plug-in worked for my friend’s toy-breed dog who had anxiety issues. I have heard success stories with this product, but have not tried it myself.  Many people successfully calm their pet using Rescue Remedy. I’ve heard of people both putting it in the dog’s water or giving it as directed.

Crates or Confinement versus “run of the house” – My last dog, Lucky, did  great having the run of the house. He loved taking long naps in a quiet, peaceful house and actually got stressed when I confined him to one room. Kobe, my current dog, is just the opposite. He feels safe and secure in his crate, and anxious if he’s home alone with no space limitations. Kobe happily goes in his crate.

Tryout some of these ideas, and you’ll discover what works best for you and your dog. If your dog has severe anxiety issues, talk to your veterinarian to see if a prescription anti-anxiety medication might be helpful.

Please leave a comment with any tips you have for relieving dog stress and anxiety.
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2017-2018 MASNA Student Scholarships Available

by Aquatics April 19, 2017

We are proud to again partner with the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA) for the 2017-2018 MASNA Student Scholarships. There are two scholarships available: One $4,000 scholarship for a college undergraduate student One $4,000 scholarship for a college graduate student The 2017-2018 MASNA Student Scholarships are sponsored by Drs. Foster and Smith LiveAquaria.com, […]

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