Dealing with Diwali Stress

Sep 23 2014 : Mirror (Bangalore)

Diwali is round the corner and it’s time for us to start preparing for it. I don’t have to mention that it has to all start with a pledge not to burst loud crackers. We, pet parents, are just like any regular parent. We are aware that there are ‘family members’ who are highly sensitive to the noise. We want to celebrate the festival of lights, not sound and pollution.

One of the best Diwali plans would be to leave town — with your dog in tow; go to the hills or villages, far away from the din of the city during this festive season. If taking your dog on your holiday is not an option, please do not leave your dog behind and take off on your own. Diwali is NOT the time to leave a dog alone surrounded by terrifyiny sounds of firecrackers.
Remember that dogs can hear at least a magnitude better than us and Diwali is a terribly scary time for most dogs. They get highly stressed. If they have to be able to cope then we need to start bringing their overall residual stress levels as low as possible, so that they are calm and in a position to cope with Diwali. There are some neat tricks in the book for calming a dog.The first is walks. Yes, walking the dog every day can be an extremely calming exercise — if done right. The right way to walk a dog for calming purpose is to slow the pace down tremendously. Encourage your dog to sniff as much as possible during walks. The more he smells, the more his mind settles down.
We can do the same at home by giving him some nosework to do. Nosework is a fancy name for a very simple game.
Cut up treats into really small pieces, as small as the nail on your little finger. Scatter them around the house. Don’t be shy.
Scatter them around the entire house. The whole house. Make it tough for your dog. He will use his nose to start finding the treats. When he is looking in another room, you could even hide the treats in the next room so that he cannot see it but needs to use his nose to find it. It will take you all of five minutes to set this up. But your dog can take several minutes searching for it and will sleep for hours after that.
The next tool is — a special massage. When your dog is lying down, but not sleeping, sit next to him. If he does not get disturbed, then you can run your hand from his neck down to his tail in soft, long, slow strokes. Do this for about five minutes each day. This releases happy hormones in the body that can help the dog settle down further. Remember not to pet the dog when he is sleeping; do it only when he is awake. DO NOT touch the top of his head — start stroking from the neck and proceed downward. You can talk lightly to the dog, in a soothing voice. There’s even a special diet to calm your dog — curd rice. Add some til or yellu or sesame to the rice. Feed this concoction at night. This carb-heavy meal will make your dog sleep well. A well rested dog is a happy dog.
As pet parents, we need to stand together as a fraternity that recognises that this festival and its true spirit lies in creating light and joy in our lives and in those around us; not pain. And loud fire crackers cause a lot of pain!
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