Fireworks, crowds, and vacuums, oh my! From lack of exposure to a previous negative experience, there are many reasons why our pets develop specific fears. Fortunately, with a little patience and plenty of tasty treats, you can help your pet overcome their fears.
Thunderstorms, fireworks, and other loud noises are often one of our pet’s biggest fears for the simple fact that they do not understand what they are – they hear these noises and perceive them as a threat. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make your four-legged friend more comfortable during storms, fireworks, or other noises. Start by closing all doors and windows to minimize the noise as much as possible. Next, try and find a quiet spot in your home, such as a basement or room without windows. Here you can create a safe space for your pet to escape, with comfy places to rest and plenty of activities to keep them distracted. If they are food motivated, filling a toy or food puzzle with treats is a great way to keep them occupied until the noise passes. Pets pick up on your body language and energy, so it’s important that you don’t make a big deal about the noise or their reaction to it. Over time, your pet should pick up on your behavior and show less distress when they encounter it.
Dogs, in particular, can struggle with being separated from their owner. Whether this anxiety comes from instinct or a past negative experience, it doesn’t mean you can’t help your pet become comfortable with some alone time. Prior to your departure, take your pup for a brisk walk to spend some energy, rewarding them for their calm behavior when you arrive home. When you are ready to leave, ensure your furry family members are in a safe and secure area – whether it be a room or a crate. This area should have a comfy place to rest, plenty of toys, fresh water, and perhaps some of their Freshpet food. When you do walk out the door, don’t make a big fuss about it. In fact, don’t touch, talk to, or make eye contact with your dog when you leave; this shows them that time apart is not a big deal, it’s just part of the day. Depending on the severity of your dog’s separation anxiety, you may need to start small, leaving your dog alone for only a few minutes and working up to more extended periods.
There are three main reasons why pets are often afraid of the vacuum: it’s loud, they haven’t been exposed to them, or they’ve had a previous bad experience. To help your pet overcome their fear of vacuums, the best thing you can do is gradually expose them to it. Start by leaving your pet in a room with the vacuum out, but not on; this gives them a chance to explore the device and see it in a non-threatening state. Next, make the vacuum more familiar by putting one of your sweaters on it so it smells like you or placing their toys around it. During this exposure phase, you can also start to create positive associations with the vacuum by serving their meals beside the vacuum or giving them treats when they’re near it. Once your pet is completely comfortable around the vacuum when it’s turned off, it’s time to turn it on – but keep it stationary. This will allow them to become familiar with the sound of it on without the threat of it moving around. Again, as your pet becomes more comfortable slowly start moving it while keeping your distance. Before you know it, you’ll be able to vacuum any room in your house while your pet rests comfortably nearby.
If your pet missed out on key socialization periods or had negative experiences with humans in the past, there is a chance they could grow up to be fearful of strangers. The good news is that this nervousness can be overcome. When introducing your pet to someone new, explain that they’re a bit nervous and ask the person to either stand up straight or crouch down on one knee without looking directly at your pet. This non-threatening position will make your pet more comfortable to approach. You can also sprinkle some Freshpet treats around where they’re positioned and give plenty of praise when they approach them – this should help to change your pet’s emotional state from scared to happy. Having these short interactions with more and more people over time will help your pet build the association between unfamiliar people with good things, reducing their fear. The path to overcoming fear is different for every pet, but Freshpet’s tasty food and treats can be a helpful part of the process. Note: It’s important to keep in mind that the information we’ve shared above may be helpful for some pets, but if yours struggles with serious fears the best person to talk to is your veterinarian or animal behaviorist.