We are having some construction done on our home soon and so I am scrambling to find ways to make sure the dogs are not left alone when the construction noise is going on. The construction guys don't seem to understand my concern and one even said in an insulted tone, "we don't abuse dogs". In discussing this lack of understanding I experienced with fellow trainer, Aryn Hervel of Leaps and Hounds Dog Training in Marin County, CA, she agreed that she would never leave her dogs home alone during something like construction. She also remarked that a statement she often hears when being called in to help a dog with anxiety, barking or aggression issues is: " The problem started after we had construction going on..". It seems to Aryn and I that many people are unaware of the need to protect their dogs from the noise and commotion of work being done on the home.
Hence my inspiration to write to help make sure you are aware of this big potential cause of problems for your dog. To many dogs, which are by nature territorial animals, a strange person coming into their homes or yards and banging and moving stuff about is a big threat. Trying to defend their homes or hide from the perceived assault can potentially cause your dog a huge amount of stress. This stress may lead to anxiety, fearfulness, habitual barking or aggression. It is also possible your dog could accidentally be let out by the service worker or get into a dangerous situation (Aryn tells me of an example of a dog drinking paint water!). It is especially important with impressionable puppies and adolescent dogs to make sure they are protected from big scares such as hammering and sawing noises. Loud noises from construction can cause a previously easy going and good natured puppy to become fearful and anxious in the long term! I strongly encourage you to make sure your dog is elsewhere when you are having something loud going outside or inside your home, especially if you are not there to assure your dog that it is okay. Options are to take your dog with you, bring them to a doggy daycare or ask a friend to watch them. It is a hassle, but it is much less of a hassle (and heartache), than having to hire a dog trainer to help your dog get over the anxiety and behavior problem that was caused by this scary intrusion into his safe space.
This warning also applies to having service people visit your home such as gardeners or housecleaners when your dog is home alone. The noise, activity and presence of strangers can send many a dog into a tizzy of protectiveness or fear or lead to accidental escape.
Of course there are some dogs are so mellow that they greet commotion with a happy tail wag, but these dogs are the exception and I would be careful to make sure they stay this way! Certainly, dogs who are younger than two, shy or standoffish or tend to react strongly to changes in their environment should not be left alone when work is being done on the home.
To help your dog understand that these occurrences are okay, you can talk to your dog in a calm, happy voice, feed treats, play with toys, stroke him, etc. If your dog is still anxious you can try moving him or her away from the activity and giving him a chew bone, treat dispensing toy and perhaps a calming remedy. Sometimes some white noise such as a fan can help to dampen some of the strange sounds. If your dog still won't calm down it is probably best to see what you can do to get him or her away from the situation so that it does not get worse.
I hope this helps to keep your doggies safe feeling they need to defend your homes from scary hammering, sawing, mopping, mowing "monsters"! Please let us know your thoughts and if you have any questions.
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