Fear Free Techniques for Dogs

When dogs are fearful, stressed, or anxious, they may display behaviors such as excessive barking, pacing, or salivation. Or, they may follow you everywhere you go or cause destruction to your home. It’s important to recognize these signs and learn what you can do to help calm your pet. Fortunately, you can register for the second annual Fear Free Pet Behavior Symposium!

By recognizing our pet’s physical and emotional well-being, we can proactively decrease their stress and improve how we interact in their lives.

We know how to meet the basic needs of our pets with healthy food, clean water, shelter, and access to veterinary care. At the SF SPCA, we are committed to caring and treating animals both physically and emotionally and we are now incorporating Fear Free practices into our hospitals and behavior programs. Here are tips you can incorporate at home.

  1. Make Eating an Enriching Activity: Hunting is a natural instinct for dogs, so when we give them food in a dish, we eliminate the challenge and the chase. Instead of offering a dish of food, you can stimulate her mind, senses, and body by turning mealtime into a game. Start by setting out multiple bowls in the space where your dog normally eats, with each bowl holding a portion of a whole meal. When your dog understands that each bowl has a reward, she’ll be interested in exploring more. Begin to place the bowls farther apart; this encourages your dog’s instinct to hunt, gives her more control over the process of eating, and keeps her mind alert. When your dog is engaged and confident, fear and anxiety lessen.You can also offer food puzzles, which you can make on your own or purchase in a multitude of designs. Puzzles with hidden compartments provide an engaging and stimulating way for your dog to sniff out and enjoy food.
  2. Teach Manners with Games: Teaching our pets to come when called is an important—and potentially life-saving—skill. To improve your dog’s response to “Come,” make it into a game by including your friends. Start in a small area, like a hallway, and have a person at either end. Take turns calling your dog and rewarding her when she comes to you. Spread out farther throughout your house, calling your dog and rewarding her when she finds you. This makes learning exciting and positive, leaving stress and fear out of the experience.

Record Behaviors: Set up your phone to capture a short video of your dog’s behavior when you’re not home. If you’re concerned that your dog is stressed due to separation anxiety, this will allow you to see what she does when you’re away. You can share the video with your veterinarian to help determine next steps.

Register for the Fear Free Pet Behavior Symposium hosted by the SF SPCA!

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