Safe Spaces for … Your Dog

Four-legged canines are now in need of coddling along with everyone else

If you think the holiday rush is stressful for you — then apparently you now need to start paying more attention to your dog.

If your pup is pacing, licking his lips, averting his gaze, or yipping excessively, he could be exhibiting signs of stress.

Who needs to coddle children or grandchildren when you could spoil your dog instead?

You’re probably working overtime to balance family, work, and community obligations this holiday season, and the last thing you need is an additional stressor in the form of your canine companion. Yet experts are now advocating “safe spaces” for your canine during all of this seasonal stress. These spaces should be tucked away in a quiet corner, with a bed for comfort and a bone for distraction.

And if the safe space isn’t enough, you’re also supposed to purchase expensive “calming sprays” (a stunning $28.49 for some brands on Amazon) or put on some soothing music. After all, who needs to coddle children or grandchildren when you could spoil your dog instead?

Recent surveys from the American Pet Products Association show that a majority of owners view their pets as family members and seek to treat them as such, purchasing carefully formulated foods and products to pamper, pamper, pamper. The pet products industry raked in over $60 billion last year, and this spending doesn’t even include veterinary costs. This is just a massive amount of money spent on leashes, beds, toys, collars — and, yes, clothing such as Halloween costumes and Christmas sweaters.

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Imagine what Americans could accomplish if they used even a portion of the money spent on spoiling their pets to fund charitable giving instead.

There may be some merit, however, to finding ways to calm your dog down if he or she exhibits stressed behaviors. When stressed, “animals resort to their last defense, which often is delivering a bite,” said Brian Ogle, professor of anthrozoology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida. “Regardless of how well-trained or well-mannered your animal may be, specific situations can cause the animal to become defensive. Similar to humans, stress can cause normal behaviors to alter. In dogs, this includes lowering their bite threshold.”

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In this case, a space for your dog to de-escalate could be a safety issue. “The use of calming techniques for your canine companions during the holidays can be quite essential for individual animals,” Ogle told LifeZette. “The escalation of stress experienced by animals caused by new scents, extra people, and noise has the potential to increase the likelihood of the animal biting.” Ogle also points out that many of these holiday gatherings can be sensory overload for animals with better senses of hearing and smell than humans.

You don’t need to create a “safe space” complete with doggy bones and classical music — but keeping the toys and bed in a quiet area can help ensure the safety of your family members and visitors if your dog becomes agitated. Dogs don’t need extravagance to calm down, and a simple space will serve just as well. You could even take some of the money you save on pet products and put them toward a worthy nonprofit or charity this year.

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