With impending bad weather this weekend, my home (along with the rest of the East Coast) is battening down the hatches and preparing to be fairly house-bound for the next few days. Hopefully we'll just come out of the weekend with an extra few feet of rain, however this is a good reminder to plan ahead for our pets during dangerous weather as well. When making those day-before trips to the grocery store for hurricane food and a few extra batteries, keep in mind what supplies or plans you might need to keep your family pet safe, calm, and from driving you crazy during bad weather. Here are a few things on our preparation check list which we always think about before bad weather.
As a pet owner you have responsibility to do everything you can to keep your pets safe. Human lives come first, however that does not mean you should ignore your pets safety needs when making preparations for the rest of your home. These few simple tips can help keep Fido safe in an emergency situation:
- Tags: be sure all dogs (and cats) in your home are wearing a tag. This is important all the time, but particularly before bad weather. A microchip does NOT replace an identifying tag which can easily connect you to your dog. Make sure the tag contains a visible, current phone number to somebody who can help your pet.
- Food: keep at least an extra two weeks (usually a full bag) worth of dry dog food. Many people remember to buy extra food for themselves, but forget that buying more dog food was on the to-do list for next week, and now should be done early. During bad weather it is very likely pet stores will be closed and you do not want to end up using your own emergency food for your dog.
- Have a plan: Know what you will do with your pets if an evacuation becomes necessary. Sometimes there are specific protocols in place for where pets need to go during an evacuation. Talk to local shelters, educate yourself and be familiar with these plans before an emergency happens. Just like you have a plan for where your family will go in case of an emergency, have a plan for where your pets will go. Be willing to evacuate early so that you have time to get you and your pet to safety.
A stressed animal can make any potentially emergency situation significanty worse. Plan ahead to help keep your animal as calm as possible. Remember that bad weather is very scary to many animals and be understanding if accidents happen in the house or if your dog begins doing some more unwanted behaviors than usual.
- Use a Thundershirt or hormone collar to help ease your dog's stress. Be sure to introduce these calming aids slowly days before bad weather hits.
- Make sure your dog has a safe comfort place/items. Whether this is a crate, a favorite dog bed, or all those stinky dog toys, make them available for your dog. You may want to move a crate or bed into a room with the rest of the family to help your dog feel more comfortable. If there is a threat of a power outage, contain your dog in this room with you (with emergency supplies), so that you know where they are.
- Stay calm. Your dog can sense your stress just as much as he can sense the bad weather. Take confidence that you are prepared to handle the bad weather and keep life as normal as you can for your dog. Play a game, cuddle, or do a short training session to keep things normal.
3) And to keep your pet from driving you crazy!
Quite possibly the hardest thing about bad weather with a dog, is that it means they are trapped inside with you. For a long time. As many pet owners know, there is nothing like a 3 day downpour to bring the crazy out of our otherwise lovely dogs. Which makes sense, many of them are used to going for long walks or playing outside so a sudden change in schedule and lack of exercise means they have that much more energy to burn in your (suddenly so small) living room. So a few of our favorite suggestions to keep your dog busy and you happy :)
- Special toys: pull out a different "special" or "new" toy that your dog hasn't had access to in awhile, once every few hours. Make the switch and maybe hide the "old new toy" in the dog's food container to make it smell extra good the next time it comes out. The new factor can help keep old toys interesting for longer. For dogs who don't tend to entertain themselves with toys, see below...
-Food toys: kongs (stuffed and frozen), peanut butter bones, marrow bones and puzzle feeders are a life saver during bad weather. A good food toy will keep a dog occupied for hours, will tire them out, and can help prevent stress related destructive behavior. You can give your dog all of their normal meals out of these sorts of toys to keep them from getting too full. In my opinion, it is much better to be giving your dog another food toy once every few hours (and maybe putting them on a post-hurricane diet) than to let them start becoming destructive or generally mischeivous because they are bored or stressed. However, this takes planning, so make sure that you have plenty of food toys or puzzles prepared BEFORE the bad weather hits.
- Games and training: Tire your dog out by making them use their brain instead of their muscles! Instead of giving your dog their meal in a dish, hide it around the house or under boxes such that they need to work to get it. Try playing hide and seek by having one family member distract your dog with a toy or playtime while another hides. Call the dog and let him search through the house using his nose, eyes, or ears to find you! You can also do lots of short 5-10 minute training sessions with your dog (keep in mind if Fido is stressed you may need to practice fun, easy behaviors.) Try playing games like '101 Things To Do with a Box' (instructions found here: http://www.clickertraining.com/node/167 ) or teach them with shaping to do a fun trick like pushing a soccer ball through a goal (instructions found here: http://www.clickertraining.com/node/1873 ) Though not a perfect replacement for a nice long run, you would be surprised at how tiring some of these games can be for your pet!
Animals, particuarly young ones, can get bored and stressed very easily during bad weather. With a little planning ahead you can keep them busy, safe, and calm in productive ways. Hope everyone stays safe and has a little fun with their dog this weekend :)