Like it or not, it’s mankind’s world, and dogs are just living in it. In an urban environment, dogs are exposed daily to loads of auditory and visual stimulation that may be overwhelming. You may not even know that your dog is stressed or irritated by these stimuli!
Here are some potential signs that your dog is experiencing a sensory overload:
- Being in a constant state of alert
- Barking frequently at noises
- Hard time calming down after exposure
- Constant licking
- Trouble sleeping
- Compulsive behaviors
So, what can you do to help your dog adapt to an urban setting riddled with bustling people, passing cars, loud noises, planes overhead and phones constantly ringing? Here are several steps to help your dog cope with potentially stressful stimuli and manage stress effectively:
- Socialize from an early age. A puppy is most receptive to social learning between the age of 4 weeks and 16 weeks, which means it’s the perfect time to expose your dog to all the sights, sounds and smells they will likely experience moving forward. Your pup will begin to accept these stimuli as normal!
- Record your dog’s behavior. Find out how they behave in your absence to gain insight into how they are feeling and what may cause them anxiety, stress or fear.
- Muffle sounds. Once you know that certain sounds cause stress for your dog, provide some form of white noise to divert their attention! This could be as simple as turning on the radio or turning on a fan.
- Reduce visual stimulation. Block visual access to the source of your dog’s compulsive barking or hyperactive behavior.
- Invest in calming aids. A little something to take the edge off can make a huge difference!
- Provide a predictable environment. Your dog will feel reassured by a routine and environment they can depend on.
- Provide the right kind of exercise. Not all exercise is created equal—it can also be overstimulating and can heighten a dog’s level of reactivity. It’s important to strike a balance between controlled physical exercise and mental exercise. Our Fitdog trainers believe in utilizing the right type of exercise towards a specific training goal, such as giving them heavy work before introducing them to a new environment and reinforcing social standards with rewards.
- Desensitize and counter-condition. Talk to one of our Fitdog trainers for ways you can implement different behavioral methods to help your dog cope with sights and sounds!