Some dogs can find certain things or situations difficult, scary or stressful and this can be extremely distressing for both you and your dog so it's only natural to scour the web for something that will help. In this article, ADAPTIL’s behaviourist explores the different levels of fear that dogs can show when worried or stressed and what to expect out of ADAPTIL and environmental changes designed to help these fears.
Firstly, let's take a look at ‘us humans’ when we feel anxious or fearful (for example fear of heights, spiders or flying). We may feel slightly nervous so our heart rate increases, we may not be able to concentrate or we may show extreme levels of fear and get shortness of breath, start sweating or we may even feel nauseous. Now think of ways we try to cope with these fears, we can’t make them ‘go away’ or use a product to stop being fearful but we can try methods to help us cope and bring the level of our fear down.
This is exactly the same with our dogs, many parts of our modern lives can be unexpected or difficult to understand. Things can be completely random, making dogs feel like they have no control which in itself can cause stress and discomfort. The level of worry each dog exhibits can be different, every dog is an individual and has a different level of fear.
The Dog Fear Ladder
To try to explain this further we have adapted the ladder diagram to show the different levels of fear your dog may exhibit. As your dog gets more and more worried, they will get further up the fear ladder which will as a result will show more extreme reactions.
By helping them bit by bit and preparing, following some techniques and plugging in an ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser you can help them go down the fear ladder.
It's important to remember that if your dog is exhibiting a level 5 fear these measures may bring them down to a 3 which of course helps your dog cope with whatever they find difficult but if they have an extreme worry then they will still show a fear response to that stimuli or situation but will be in a more calm and comfortable state. This can help training or redirecting onto something else.
A great way to get them further down the ladder is to desensitise them to the stimuli by starting further away from it and asking for a behaviour that is completely different to their response and rewarding this highly and positively. Or redirecting to play or an alternative reward and go in a separate direction and to build up their confidence.
What to expect when using ADAPTIL
When a mother has puppies she releases a natural pheromone which not only settles her as an adult dog but also her puppies, it is there to help reassure the pups when settling into their new life and meeting new things for the first time.
ADAPTIL is an exact copy of this natural pheromone and helps reassure your dog or puppy as if the mother was still there and provides them with additional support during challenging times.
Although ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser is not a magic wand to solve all your dog’s worries, it can help reduce signs of fear such as trembling and hiding by 93% in dogs.2,3 It can help comfort your dog and make them feel reassured, during many situations, whether this is during a situation they find scary, or that is new or during training.
Remember, all dogs are different and their level of fear will be different and therefore their responses will vary. Using ADAPTIL is not necessarily going to make them completely relax and sleep through the scary event or setting (it could for some dogs). It works to help calm, comfort and reassure your dog and can help dogs settle quicker after the challenging event, what ADAPTIL does not do is sedate your dog.
If you are able to bring them down the ladder a few steps, you may then be able to interact and distract your dog which in term will give you an opportunity to reward calm and relaxed behaviours which will leave a positive experience for the future.
Get specialist help for an extreme fear
There are some dogs where no matter how much you can try to help, the dog’s fear is so extreme that nothing will be taken in or altered. The fear will not be able to be reduced without professional help. Speak to your vet and they will be able to advise and prescribe you with suitable medication, which may help your dog. For the long term, requesting help from a behaviourist will help you put practices in place for the next fireworks season.
1) PDSA 2018 Report
2) Evaluation of dog appeasing pheromone (D.A.P.®) as a potential treatment for dogs fearful of fireworks. Sheppard G, Mills D S Veterinary Record, 2003; 152, 432-436.
3) Effect of Dog Appeasing Pheromone Collar (DAP®) on a Model of Sound-Induced Fear and Anxiety. Landsberg G, Beck A, Araujo JA, Milgram N. Proceedings of the 9th International Veterinary Behaviour Meeting, Lisbon, Portugal, 2013, 45-46.