Many pets suffer from anxiety and need a safe place to go when feeling uneasy. Whether your furry friend becomes shy when you have guests or gets nervous when there is a loud thunderstorm, creating a safe zone can help it feel at ease.
Even pets that don’t stress out easily enjoy having private areas. That way, they can head to their safe spaces to stretch out, relax, and nap for as long as they want. Giving your pet the option to leave one situation and enter into another that it finds comforting is a great way to ensure it stays happy and stress-free. Consider the following seven tips when creating a safe zone for your pet.
1. Choose the right area
If you don’t have a lot of extra space in your home, don’t fret. Your pet doesn’t need an entire room to itself. Consider using a large closet or the laundry room. Any area will work as there isn’t regular foot traffic.
While cats may favor spots where they typically sleep, such as an area on or under your bed, dogs prefer smaller spaces that are quiet, which is one reason why crates work well.
Dogs yearn for den-like areas to feel cozy and secure. As long as the crate is big enough for your pup to stand up in and turn around completely, it’s large enough for your pooch.
Note that you shouldn’t put your dog in a crate and shut the door the first time you use it, as this process will scare your pup and turn the area that is supposed to be a safe zone into a place your dog doesn’t want to be. Crate training your dog should be a slow process. As your pup gets more comfortable with the space, it will naturally go to the crate when it becomes scared, nervous, or simply needs a break.
2. Consider an outdoor setting
Oddly enough, some pets fare better when they’re outside. Indulging in unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can relax some dogs or cats.
Since it’s not safe for pets to run free, as they can get hit by a car, taken by a stranger, or attacked by a predator, consider opting for a no-dig dog fence or a cat enclosure to ensure your furry friend stays securely in your yard.
3. Make the safe zone comfortable
To ensure your pet feels safe when it enters its secure zone, you should add necessities such as water and food so your furry friend doesn’t have to leave the area before it’s ready. You may also want to include comfort items, such as a soft bed, blankets, and toys. Some animals prefer snoozing on their pet parents’ clothing because these items smell like their owners, which can be reassuring in stressful situations.
Turning on a radio or a white-noise machine in or near the safe area can help your pet stay cool, calm, and collected by canceling out sounds that may upset your furry friend. Some pets (especially dogs) even enjoy watching other animals on TV. This effective distraction allows your pet to focus on the screen instead of feeling fearful or anxious.
4. Ensure your pet can enter the safe zone easily
Having a safe zone that your pet can retreat to is useless if your dog or cat can’t quickly and easily get into that space.
You never know what could set your pet off, so the safe space must always be accessible. Make sure you don’t shut the space’s door or block the walkway to the zone.
Easy navigation is essential to prompt, efficient stress relief.
5. Don’t isolate your dog
Your pet should also be able to exit the space whenever it’s ready to explore the house again. A safe zone’s purpose is to allow your pet to gain control over who and what it interacts with, so if it wants to avoid a situation, it can. However, when it’s ready to return from the area, it should be able to at its leisure.
Ensure you don’t close your dog or cat in its safe zone. Otherwise, it will view this area as a punishment. Keeping your pet in an area that’s supposed to be comforting against its will can result in even more stress. Allow your pet to create boundaries regarding its safe space and level of interaction.
6. Cater to your dog’s needs
Pet owners know that every cat or dog is unique. What one pet likes, the other may hate. Take the time to consider each pet’s preferences and incorporate them into the safe space.
For example, perhaps your dog calms down when you allow it to wear a specific puppy sweater, or maybe your pup can quickly get its mind off of stressful outside sources with an interactive treat puzzle that contains calming supplements. Use the options that work best for your furry friend.
7. Take time to pet-proof the area
While kittens and puppies are more likely to get into things they shouldn’t, pets of any age are curious, which may encourage them to do something that could put them in danger. To ensure your pet stays safe, you should pet-proof the area by doing the following:
- Store food or cleaning supplies elsewhere
- Remove trash cans
- Use outlet covers
- Secure or hide electrical cords
- Pick up essential clothing items and shoes
- Keep the area at a comfortable temperature
You’ll breathe easier knowing that your pets are out of harm’s way while getting the seclusion they want and need!
Give your dog a safe zone
Occasionally, everyone needs a little alone time, even pets! Don’t put off creating this special safe zone for your furry friend.
Remember that your pet will only understand the space if you take the time to illustrate its calming functionality. If you encourage your pet to hang out in the area by providing positive experiences, such as giving it food, treats, or toys, your furry friend will consider the space to be safe.
Julia Nikolaus is a content strategist for an LA-based company. She enjoys working with pet brands and writing about pet care. Julia currently shares a dog, chickens, and two pygmy goats with her parents on their joined farmette in Columbia, Pennsylvania.