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Busy summer? How to keep your reactive dog calm no matter what's going on

Summer's in full swing & most of the kids (and teachers) are out of school so there’s a whole new schedule for your dog to adjust to.

So today, I’m sharing strategies on Creating a Calm Environment at Home for your Reactive Dog. Some dogs, like some people, thrive on the energy of chaos while others need a calmer environment. This is true especially for fearful or anxious dogs.

When Creating a Peaceful Haven at home for your reactive dog, you’ll want to consider two key areas:

  • Ways to create a stress-free safe space for your dog, and

  • Ways to manage noise, set up a relaxing area & calm your dog.

To create a stress-free, safe space for your dog during the hot summer months so they are happy & comfortable, start with these 10 ideas:

1. Shade & Shelter⛱️

Dogs overheat more easily than humans so ensure you provide easy access to shade when your dog is outside & a cool, private space inside to escape both the heat and summer family chaos.

2. Hydration Stations

It helps to add extra opportunities for fresh, clean, cool drinking water during the hotter months both indoors & outside. Toss in a couple of ice cubes for cool enrichment. Remember too, that physical comfort supports emotional wellness for your reactive pup (and you)!

3. Cooling Mats & Fans🪭

Try a cooling mat and/or place fans strategically in spots where your dog likes to relax. The fan's white noise will also help reduce potentially upsetting noises for your dog, especially if windows are open.

4. Regular Grooming✂️

Depending on your dog's breed/mix, keeping them groomed for summer supports a a clean mat-free coat as well as helps keep your pup cool.

5. Limit Outdoor Activities🚵

Avoid strenuous exercise during peak heat hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) especially if your dog is brachycephalic. Take walks in the early morning/later evening instead and use enrichment activities (puzzle toys, lick mats, etc.) throughout the day to keep your dog happy and engaged.

6. Create a Quiet Zone🔇

Designate a quiet, comfy area at home where your dog can retreat to when they feel overwhelmed by noise or activity. Make sure everyone knows that whey your dog is in this area, they are to be left to themselves. If your pup is crate trained, you can use that as their quiet area.

7. Provide Entertainment🎲

Give your dog access to toys, puzzle feeders,, chews & other engaging activities (enrichment) so they stay mentally & intellectually stimulated. A bored dog is a mischievous dog and an anxious pup, left to their own devices, can become more anxious.

8. Avoid Hot Surfaces🔥

Protect your dog's paws from hot pavement by walking them on grass or using dog booties. Also, keep an eye out for cool spots on your walks for breaks. I live near a school and Jake used to love to take a break on the cool marble under their front door awning.

9. Monitor for Signs of Heat Stress🥵

Monitor your dog for signs of heat stress such as excessive panting/drooling, lethargy & weakness. If you see any of these signs immediately take steps to cool your dog.

10. Ensure a Safe Environment:

Obviously, you should do this year round but it's especially important in the summer because a loose dog may overheat with nobody there to help, panic and get lost during fireworks among other dangers. Be sure to secure your yard & home to prevent escapes and keep hazardous items out of reach for a safe doggy environment.

To manage noise, set up a relaxing area & calm your dog, check out the following 13 ideas:

Manage Noise

1. Use White Noise🔊

If you don't have a white noise machine, the sound of a fan or air conditioner work just as well. Brown noise has been found to be especially helpful for anxious dogs. I play brown noise for my dog, Shadow, through Amazon music (the free version) and there are several options on Youtube as well. If you don't care for the static sound, leave on the TV or radio for your dog. Reggae & soft rock music have been found to be especially calming for dogs.

2. Close Windows & Curtains🪟

Minimize outside noise/visuals that trigger your dog by keeping windows & curtains closed.

3. Soundproof a Room🚪

It's easier than it seems to soundproof (or sound-minimize) a room or closet using heavy curtains, rugs & acoustic panels. it's like giving your dog a panic room (or an "I go here so I don't panic" room).

4. Provide a Safe Haven During Storms/Fireworks🌩️

We had a thunder & lightning storm here last night which terrified Shadow (Jake never minded a storm) who climbed in my life for comfort (there's nothing like a mother's arms to make you feel safe). Use your soundproof room if you made one or set up a simple, comfy & quiet corner where your dog can retreat during loud events.

Set Up a Relaxing Area

1. Choose a Quiet Location🔇

Select a low-traffic area of your home away from the main hustle & bustle for your dog’s relaxation spot.

2. Comfortable Bedding🛏️

Fill it with a soft, cozy bed your dog loves.

3. Personal Items🧸

Add your dog's favorite toys, blankets, treats and something with your scent so the space feels safe and familiar.

4. Temperature Controlled🌡️

Make sure to choose a well-ventilated spot and keep it cool with a dedicated fan if you don't have air conditioning.

5. Has All the Necessities💧

Keep a bowl of fresh water and food (if you keep your dog's food out) along with anything else you think would make the spot extra special for your dog.

Calming Techniques

1. Calming Scents🕯️

Like humans, many dogs find the scent of lavender calming. You can try a candle, sachet or essential oil and see if it works for your dog.

2. Clothes👚

Although some dogs prefer to live in the buff, some find wearing clothes comforting. If your not sure how your dog feels, it may be worth a try to see if a T-shirt might make them feel calmer. Be extra careful if you take them outside in clothes as the added layer can cause them to overheat faster. Last fall I experimented to see if Shadow would enjoy wearing clothes and she did not as you can see from her expression in the picture below!

3. Touch👋

Massage & petting can help your dog relax. You can hire a professional canine massage therapist or DIY. There is also T-Touch developed by Linda Tellington-Jones. If you've ever had a massage, you know how relaxing it can be!

4. Calming Activities🪷

Have some gentle fun with your dog by taking a slow walk, reading to them or some calming play.

Try all or just some of the ideas above to keep your dog happy, safe, comfortable, calm & healthy all summer long.

Do you have your own way to create a Peaceful Haven for your dog? I'd love to see it and your images will spark the creativity of others! Share it with me in the comments or on Instagram or Facebook!


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