Creating a Safe Place
Sometimes we all just need a break, and so does your pup! Your dog might be naturally shy or nervous around different kinds of people, be fearful of loud noises or events, or dealing with separation anxiety when left alone. Even if you’ve got a chilled out pooch, creating a safe place for your furry friend can help expedite house and obedience training and provides a comfortable place for him or her to go when they want to relax! By giving your dog the choice and autonomy to leave a situation, you increase their confidence in dealing with uncertain or stressful situations.
Safe Place Essentials
A safe place for a puppy should include a “potty zone”, while an adult dog who is house broken doesn’t require one. If your pup is already crate trained, think of the safe space as an extension of their crate. The safe place should be viewed with positivity, and your pup ideally should enjoy being in his or her special place. Many owners will put their dog’s crate inside their safe place for this reason.
When creating your dog’s safe place, there are a few elements that can help make it feel as cozy and appealing to your pup as possible.
Making sure your dog is physically comfortable in his or her safe place is essential to the success of the safe place. This includes temperature, comfort items or toys, and enough room to go full sploot!
- Food and Water
Feeding your dog in his or her safe space can help create positive associations with the area. If your dog loves his or her food, it is a great idea to feed your pup in his or her safe place. Additionally, your dog’s safe place should have accessible water, ideally in a spill-proof bowl, so that your pooch can get a drink without wetting the floor or bedding.
- Easy Access
It is important that the safe place is easy for your dog to access. Your dog’s safe place should be nearby the main rooms of the house, or wherever your dog typically likes to hang out. The safe place should never be used for time-out’s or punishment as that will likely encourage your pup to view his or her safe place as negative.
You can make your dog’s safe space as comfortable as possible by tailoring it to your pet’s individual needs and sensitivities. If your pooch fears loud noises, adding a white noise machine or a fan can help alleviate stress while inside the safe place. Additionally, there are certain types of music that have been shown to reduce anxiety in dogs. The Washington Post found that Reggae, Soft Rock and Classical are the most relaxing genres of music you can play for your pup! Bob Marley, anyone? There are also CD’s and playlists designed specifically for canine friends. If you go to a music sharing platform, such as Spotify or Pandora, you will be able to find plenty of soundtracks with just a quick search.
- Stimulating and Enriching
Providing some toys and long-lasting chews for your dog while he or she is in their safe space can help make the area feel more enticing and rewarding. This is particularly important if you plan to leave your dog in his or her safe place while you are out of the house. Puzzle toys and Snuffle Mats are great examples of boredom-busting activities you can give to your pup.
Likely the most important aspect of your dog’s safe place is safety. The safe place must be dog-proofed, with no dangerous items or hazards. These include toxic plants, power cords and cables, suffocation hazards like plastic food bags, and more! Here is a list of household items that are harmful to your pup to look out for. Additionally, make sure that if using a pen, it is secure and cannot fall over or out of place. This way you will not need to worry about your dog’s safety while he or she is in their safe spot! Here is a quick list of dangerous items to look out for:
- Trash and other ingestible items.
- Cords, wires and outlets.
- Open bags and potential suffocation hazards.
- Medications and drugs.
- Poisonous house plants.
- Heights: keep your pup grounded.
- Toys that are easily destroyed and eaten.
Encouraging your dog to retreat to his or her safe place when your home feels chaotic or you notice that your pup might be overwhelmed will help to establish the safe place as a refuge. Anytime you see your pup go into his or her safe place, give him or her a treat or reward to further reinforce the behavior. These two tips will help to ensure your pup has the most comfortable and relaxing “safe place” around!