Dogs can become stressed, anxious or overwhelmed by a variety of situations and it is up to us as their advocates to help reduce the stressors in their lives. One way to do this is to provide a safe space for them to retreat to. By giving your dog the choice to leave a situation, you increase their confidence in dealing with uncertain or stressful situations. This is vital as we transition back to post-quarantine times and they are reentering the world, just as we are.
Here’s How To Set Up Your Own Safe Space:
Follow Their Lead: The most important part of creating a safe space for your dog is to recognize what they find comforting. Take note of where your dog naturally goes when they need a break and make that space the BEST place ever!
Make It Comfortable: Add your pet’s favorite blanket, mat or bed so they can relax in comfort.
Easily Accessible: Your dog should always have the choice of when they want to enter and exit their safe space.
Keep It Positive: Never use this area for time outs or confinement when you’re away.
Quiet Outside Noise: Arrange the safe space away from windows whenever possible. It may also be helpful to play soothing music or white noise to block outside noise.
Provide Mental Enrichment: Provide safe and appropriate puzzle, chew or treat dispensing toys in their safe zone to help tire your pup by working their brain.
Keep It Calm: Don’t use the space as an area to play rambunctiously with your dog. It’s meant to be a calm and relaxing environment.
Now that you have the space set up, here’s how to get your dog used to it:
The Sooner The Better: Introduce your dog to their safe space as early as possible, setting one up before your bring your dog home. If that’s not possible, let your dog naturally pick his or her own safety zone and go with it! If you put away the crate because Fluffy is doing just fine without it, put it back up!
Positive Association: Feed your dog their regular meals in their safe space to create positive vibes.
Reward The Choice: Give your dog a treat or long lasting chew to work on any time they enter their safe space on their own.
Encourage The Retreat: Any time your dog is becoming stressed by a nearby activity or noise, simply encourage them to retreat to their safe space and settle with a treat or chew.
Give Them Space: Praise them calmly when they relax in their safe zone and make sure no one bothers them while they are there.
Dogs need a lot of love and attention—but they also need plenty of space. They are territorial animals, so it is important they have areas in your home set up for them to sleep, play and hide out if they feel the urge. A safe haven provides your dog with a choice and the option of escaping from a situation. They may not always choose to leave, but knowing there is such a place can help build a confident dog and navigate possible issues caused by a year of quarantine.
Written and Contributed by: Jenna Gotch, Owner