Your child’s summer holidays mightn’t necessarily make your dog happier, particularly if it’s a new puppy or set in its ways.
Changes in routine, extra noise, travelling or going to kennels can cause anxiety in dogs, says certified dog behaviour consultant Nanci Creedon.
“Dogs are creatures of habit — if they’re not getting their usual sleep in the afternoon because they’re out and about with the family, they can get anxious.
"Or if you usually walk your dog when bringing your child to school every morning and suddenly you’re taking it in the evening, it means your pet has excessive energy and is worried there isn’t going to be a walk,” says Creedon.
She advises meeting the animal’s needs early each day — ensuring it’s fed, walked and watered. This means a happy, satisfied, tired dog and the family’s free to go about their plans.
If your dog’s going on extra outings — to parks, matches or cafes — be sensitive to its coping skills in that particular environment.
“A child could grab him – being suddenly accosted by little hands can be scary for some dogs.”
Families can be unaware of — or underestimate — the impact of higher summer temperatures on dogs. “It’s a big danger,” says Creedon. “On hot days if your dog’s in strong sunshine, it could get heatstroke or headaches. The dog can also feel disorientated, unwell or uneasy.”
All of which can lead a dog to uncharacteristic aggression — in such scenarios, “a bite could happen”.
On hot days, prior to walking your dog, Creedon recommends checking the ground isn’t too hot for your pet’s paws — place back of your hand on the ground surface for 10 seconds. “If you find it too hot, your dog will too — it could get very bad paw burn. People think: ‘Oh, a nice sunny day’ and then walk their dog on the beach on hot sand or on hot tarmac. If your dog’s in pain, it’s more likely to snap when approached,” she says, adding it’s preferable to walk dogs on wet sand or on grass.
Encourage children not to bother a dog when it’s resting and not to play dress-up games with it. Instead, give children and dogs positive activities to engage in together, calm walks or sitting down to sketch/draw their pet. “Children can train their dog. YouTube’s full of fantastic ‘how to’ videos – for example, how to teach your dog to roll over.”
Nanci Creedon is an ambassador for Pettura Calming, a nutritional supplement for nervous dogs. www.pettura.ie.