Especially during holidays or special occasions, our pets experience stress, anxiety, over-attachment, and more. There are several things we can do to help our pets adjust. 

The Fourth of July with its celebrations and fireworks, summer thunderstorms with their loud booms and flashing lights, Halloween with the constant doorbell and unfamiliar people, Thanksgiving with all the people and food, Christmas with presents, food, and people, birthday celebrations, and all the other occasions your pet may be subjected to are often unavoidable. Even though unavoidable, there are many things you, the pet’s person, can do to either alleviate, minimize, or at least soften their stress response. Being aware of your options helps empower your ability to help your pet partner. However, one method used for all occasions may or may not work with your pet. Be advised, that different methods might work better for different occasions. Let’s explore some options. For many pets, more than one can be tried to find the best method, while at times a combination of suggestions is beneficial. 

The first recommendation is to be aware of your contribution to your pet’s state of affairs. The more worried you are about how your pet will NOT adjust to the upcoming anxiety experience, the more your pet will experience ANXIETY! Stop and think about your expectations regarding how your pet will react to the upcoming event. The more you expect a negative reaction, the more likely your pet will react negatively. Often, I hear how a pet partner needs help for their pet for an upcoming event. They are anticipating their pet will react negatively because the pet will follow their lead. We are trained to believe all pets will react to fireworks, thunderstorms, and an abundance of people and food. 

Begin by releasing your expectation that all animals are affected by whatever the anticipated occasion or event. Work on YOURSELF first. Transform your idea that these are anxiety-producing situations by adopting a calmer reaction. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your pet will be. As well, you will face these experiences with less anxiety. 

Even with this said, there are conditions, such as PTSD, which have trained you to react anxiously to certain occasions. Knowing which occasions trigger you, as well as practicing calming responses, will help you lessen your reaction. Even with a softened reaction, you do need to take care of yourself and meet your needs. For example, thunderstorms startle me. I know I will jump from the loud booms. I’ve also trained myself to laugh as soon as the jump or exclamation is complete. Not all but most of my dogs do not react to rainstorms unless there are very loud noises, and they calm more quickly after I laugh. This response re-associates their reaction from a continued, heightened fear response to a more relaxed response. If you are in a constant continued, heightened response mode during certain occasions, then be aware your pet will follow your lead, and both of you should take different precautions to take care of yourself and your pet. 

Have a safe place. Crates and kennels are a good place for your pet to recognize as a safe place and associate security with the place. As well, you can help your pet to identify certain rooms, places in a certain room, or a pet bed in a quiet place as being safe. 

When you know a stressful occasion is coming, allowing your pet to hide out in their safe place will help them feel secure. Though most of my dogs are generally comfortable during storms and fireworks, one of our dogs likes to sit in the basement stairway during fireworks and storms, unless we can hold her the entire time or sit holding her in the stairway.

Another very valuable technique that helps most animals is desensitization. This technique is the most planned and time-consuming. If your dog can become used to whatever stresses them, measured little by little in planned increasing increments, your pet should be calmer and less stressed at whatever previously stressed them. To use practiced desensitization, first create a plan. Starting slow, you begin to introduce whatever the stressor is to your pet in a quieter less intense manner. As they become more comfortable, you can increase the level of stressor, measured bit by measured bit. Generally, using other modalities as well during this process will help. Using such things as flower essences or essential oils can help your pet remain calmer, more attentive, and less stressed during the process. I have a client who loved using a singing bowl during her meditation. Unfortunately, her pets reacted in several stressful ways every time she used the bowl so she would need to stop. To begin, she simply showed the pets the bowl and then slowly and carefully introduced the sound little by little. We took very measured careful steps until the pets would sit in the room with her when she meditated and even sit near the bowl, asking for it to be played. 

Many pet owners have found white noise beneficial. The white noise helps mask outside sounds. When the sounds are masked the intensity is softened so the pet is less anxious. The use of white noise is a little complex because it requires you to purchase a white noise machine or to record a white noise background that you can play for your pet. There are pet stations on many streaming sites and recordings that work as white noise. I have an old CD I’ve used for my dogs, and it worked well. Some people will leave the television on to keep their pets company. This is a lesser form of adapted noise that might work for some. However, television programs have a variety of noises, and some may be more distressing than comforting. I have not used an exclusively white noise machine but have heard from others that for their pet it works well. We have used pet-calming music for our dog as she’s sitting on the staircase during a storm and know it calms her even more quickly. 

There are essential oils that can be used to help calm a pet during stressful times. Oils such as lavender, valerian, ylang-ylang, cedarwood, and orange are helpful with calming and relaxation. Another consideration: often when a pet is anxious their stomach becomes upset. As a precaution, I recommend also using peppermint and/or ginger. When using essential oils on pets make sure they are a pet-friendly oil and ingestible and diluted to an appropriate level for your pet. Even if the oil is ingestible, I think using the oil on their collar or near them on a wool ball or strip, pinned to a bed or such is very effective. If using essential oils for digestive assistance, you can put them on their collar or cloth in a safe place near their food and water bowls. 

Pet-friendly teas are another way to help calm a pet. The recommended teas need to be organic and pure (not a blend), and the recommended flavors are lavender, peppermint, and ginger. The teas need to be pet-friendly and brewed and diluted for your pet. When giving a pet tea, brew the tea and cool it before serving. Give your pet a small amount in plenty of water. It is recommended that the tea leaves be used at least twice. The first brew provides the most flavor, while the second provides the most properties, such as calming, antioxidant, etc. You can also enjoy a cup of tea, to your liking, along with your pet. 

Meditating along with the use of visualization can also benefit your pet. When you meditate with your pet, be as close to them as they allow or hold them. Then within your mind’s eye picture as clearly as possible the result you want. Imagine the object that creates anxiety, along with words, smells, colors, or whatever applies to the event, occurrence, or situation. This may include the noise, vision, people, food, or whatever you imagine applies to the stressful situation. Long before you start this technique with your pet, set in your mind what is included and what you want as a result, then practice how you will present this to your pet. For example, your pet reacts to thunderstorms. As you keep yourself quiet and calm, imagine a loud boom from a storm then within a breath bring yourself to a state of calm and smile. 

Affirmations may also help or be helpful in conjunction with other techniques. The use of affirmations for pets is a slightly different technique than when you use personal affirmations. Similarly, the wording is in positive present tense. Try out several affirmation statements before working with your pets. Affirmations for pets are done in three stages. The first step is to say the pet’s name and gender (he or she), then say the affirmation as though in the present tense (“Fluffy, she is now comfortable during storms”). The second step is to again use the pet’s name and “you” and the affirmation in collective (“Fluffy you experience comfort during storms”). The last step is to use the pet’s name and the affirmation is positive present and collective (“Fluffy is comfortable during storms”). The step process is used with pets because animal change is done in steps and affirmations done with these steps allow for the change to be affirmed gently. This gentle process also assists the pet to align with the change process on multiple energy levels. As well, this process is an invitation to their higher guidance to support their change process. When the pet’s partner uses affirmations during mediation or repeats an affirmation calmly at times of stress, it invites the spiritual entities that support the pet during a stressful time and may also bring calm to their human.”

Brushing off energy is something you can do for your pet in the midst of a stressful event. This is one of the less effective techniques when your pet is experiencing anxiety and stress. Even though less effective, it does help your pet transform some of their anxious energy. When your pet is in the midst of experiencing a stressful event or feeling anxious, brush their energy field away from their body. As you release the anxious stressful energy, it’s advisable to ask higher powers, like guides or angels, to take the energy and transform the energy. The energy can be sent off with a request it is transformed into something positive and sent onward or ask that the transformed energy be brought back to your pet. As I gather up the energy, I ask the angels to transform the energy into something desirable (whatever fits the situation) and be brought back to my pet to help them. It may not produce the ultimate desired effect, but the more I use this technique, the more I am aware of a change in their demeanor. 

The last suggestion I will mention now is the use of flower essences, such as Bach Flower. These flower essences can be used well before the event, which fortifies the pet’s system to help tolerate the upcoming event. Mimulus is known to help pets who are frightened by fireworks. Other essences that in single-use or combined will help with pet anxiety include Aspen, Rock Rose, Star of Bethlehem, Sweet Chestnut, with Rescue Remedy. Another single use or blend could include Aspen, Cherry Plum, Mimulus, Rock Rose, and Red Chestnut. When using flower essences, it is recommended you begin their use a week or two in advance. Flower essences are the gentlest on the system and are most often added to the pet’s water. Even pets that use a joint water bowl can either find benefit to their needs or it will have no adverse effect on a pet that does not need the essence. 

There are other ways to work with an anxious pet. These are some very basic methods that a pet partner can do that do not require prescription medication. (Prescription medications are another method that I am not qualified to adequately address as they require a qualified practitioner to prescribe but remember prescriptions may seem effective but tend to mask and not help the heart of the reason.) 

Try these or if you are interested contact me for a consultation to help you figure out what the best method is to work with your pet. Sometimes it is trial and error of a few techniques before you find the best for your pet. And people with multiple pets may need to find separate methods for each pet. Please reach out for help with a plan to help your pet partner with their anxiety in general and especially with specific events, occasions, and situations. All the best to you and your pet partners.

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