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Top tips for a calm and safe Easter

The Easter weekend is probably one of my most favourite through the year. I love the fact it is so long and it’s a great opportunity to meet up with friends, share long dog walks and leisurely lunches. It’s a lovely little mini recharge-unless of course you work in hospitality in which case it signals that start of the season.

What are your plans the long weekend? Will you be celebrating with friends and family? Taking a long walk on the beach or through the forest? Enjoying a lovely lamb roast or a barbecue if the weather is dry?

Amongst the excitement of seeing friends and family and arranging barbecues and social events its really easy for us to forget that it might actually be quite a stressful time for our dog-particularly puppies or recently rehomed dogs that may not have experienced this before Especially if we are planning for family to visit or if we are planning to take a long car journey and stay with relatives.

Below I give some top tips on how we can stay calm, enjoy family visits and car journeys and avoid visits to the vets.

Staying at home

So, you are planning to stay at home and welcome visitors, that sounds great and if your puppy is relatively new. Staying in familiar surroundings is a great idea. At home you can create a safe space for them away from the hustle and bustle. We all know that puppies and young dogs can often struggle to switch off, particularly if there are exciting things going on and so creating a safe space for them before people arrive is a good idea. You can set the area up over the next week and introduce your puppy slowly-if we do it on the day puppy may get distressed.

Visiting relatives

Whether your dog is a seasoned traveller or not, preparing them for a car journey should start before they even enter your car. If you’re travelling after breakfast or dinner, make sure your dog is given plenty of time to digest their meal. Many dogs suffer from car sickness so eating just before a journey could spell disaster for your car upholstery!

It’s also really important your dog has a positive association with the car…if they’re sick, it could make them nervous about future journeys too. Make sure your dog has had a little toilet break before they hop in the car too. It’s important for your dog to feel comfortable before embarking on any kind of journey – they can’t ask “are we there yet?!”

If your dog doesn’t travel in the car regularly, consider trying some shorter journeys to start with. Build up their confidence and make sure you end up somewhere fun each time (rather than just when you go to the Vet!) This will help your dog associate the car with fun times.

If it’s a longer journey, head out for a lovely walk together first. This will help your dog relax in the car afterwards, as they’ll need a well-deserved nap after running around!

Prepare relatives

One of the things that comes up time and again when working with guardians is that often relatives have different views on the best way to raise dogs. Well-meaning advice can often cause anxiety about what to do for the best. Decide about how you are going to train your puppy during this time and forewarn your family. If you don’t want them to greet your puppy if they are jumping up, then tell them. If you are concerned they are going to get over excited with young children put some control and management in place; A house line, stairgates, crate all brilliant ways of advocating for your puppy and helping them practise the behaviour we do want.

Calming activities when it all gets a bit much

Keeping to routine as much as possible is going to really help your dog. Daily walks and feed times help maintain the status quo if other parts of their day have been changed around.

  1. Scatter feeding - engage your dog’s senses by encouraging sniffing. Sniffing can have a hugely calming effect for worried or anxious dogs. In fact 20 minutes of intense sniffing can be more tiring than a physical walk-Also a great way to get away from annoying relatives!
  2. Frozen Kongs and chew toys - everyone who comes to our classes knows we are big advocates of frozen kongs and busy toys. Things that mentally stimulate your dog, getting their brain working and keeping them busy.
  3. Busy boxes – Amazon delivery day in our house mean cardboard boxes – brilliant FREE fun for dogs and children alike. For dogs take your box, stuff it with newspaper, sprinkle some food inside, close the box and let your dog work out how to get the food.

For more information on brain games for your dog you can see our Ten Enrichment Ideas Ebook by clicking here

Toxic food

With Easter comes lots of treats. Sadly, many of these treats could end up with a trip to the vets. Please remember to keep the following things out of reach. It is also a good idea to tell children of the dangers; a well-meaning child sharing their chocolate with their best furry friend can have damaging health implications.

  1. Chocolate - Most Easter treats are made from chocolate, which contains theobromine, a chemical that can be poisonous to cats, dogs and rabbits. Dark chocolate and cooking chocolates have the highest levels of theobromine, although it’s also present in milk chocolate. Depending on the size of the pet and the amount of chocolate eaten, the effects can vary from vomiting and diarrhoea to seizures, internal bleeding and even heart attacks
  2. Spring bulbs - Some common bulbs and their flowers are highly toxic to pets, resulting in vomiting, diarrhoea and disorientation. Dangerous bulbs include daffodils, narcissus, tulips, hyacinths, bluebells and lilies.
  3. Hot cross buns and Simnel cake - While many pet owners understand the danger chocolate can pose, hot cross buns are another springtime treat that can be potentially harmful to animals. Raisins, sultanas and currants are all toxic to pets, causing vomiting, diarrhoea and, in some cases, kidney failure. Make sure you keep your pets away from them

With all of the toxins listed above please ring your vet straight away. Even a small amount can have fatal consequences. Your vet will be able to advise if they need to be seen. Please don’t be tempted to ask google or in Facebook groups.

Lastly, I am sure we are all looking forward to a lovely long walk over the weekend to work off the Easter eggs and enjoy the dry weather. PLEASE whatever you do keep your dog on lead around livestock. Livestock worrying under UK law covers attacking or chasing livestock. Legally, a dog must be on a lead or otherwise under close control in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep. Livestock worrying has a substantial financial and emotional impact on farmers. If in doubt get your lead out!