Activities For Emotional Dogs

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Introduction

Emotional dogs can be sensitive to a variety of stimuli and experiences that can cause anxiety and distress, both for them and for their caring humans. Whether your dog was born with more sensitivity or developed emotional reactions through traumatizing life experiences, like many rescue dogs, it's imperative to find calming and confidence-building activities for emotional dogs. If you have an emotional or sensitive pooch, you can help them out tremendously by finding a few activities to distract them or calm their nerves in situations that might make them uncomfortable. Learning exercises that help them control their emotions and burn off anxious energy will help them live a calmer life.

Find It

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Any Day
Free
Normal
10 - 20 min
Items needed
Special Treat
Favorite toy
Activity description
One of the best ways to help an emotional dog is to exercise their mind. Just like us, emotional or anxious dogs need thinking activities to tire out their brains and help them calm down. With "Find it" you'll be hiding a favorite toy or a special treat in a room and asking your pup to search out the object. They will have to rely on sniffing and searching to find their reward, using their mind to try new places and discover new techniques to get their prize. It won't take too much time to tire them out and bring their emotional level down a few notches so they can sleep. As they get better at seeking out the reward, make sure you switch up rooms and hiding spaces or expand your area to keep them guessing.
Step
1
Hide in plain sight
Show your dog the treat or toy and get them excited about it. For the first few tries, you can "hide" it while they are watching. Put it in an easy-to-find spot. Make sure they remain in a controlled sit/stay. This is part of the mental work!
Step
2
Find it!
When you are ready, release them from the sit/stay by telling them "find it!" When they find their treat, give them a big pat and let them finish their treat or play with their toy for a few seconds. Then it's time to start again and up the ante.
Step
3
Up the difficulty
Once your pup understands that "find it!" means "search for my most favorite toy or treat," up the difficulty. Hide it in a different room, choose more challenging spots like in a basket or closet. Keep challenging them to search, figure out how to get their prize, and rely on their nose. You'll notice after 10 or 20 minutes they'll be much more relaxed.
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Agility Training

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Any Day
Moderate
Hard
30 - 60 min
Items needed
Agility Course
Leash
Treats
Activity description
Dog agility courses and competitions are incredible outlets for emotional dogs. They require concentration, discipline, and a strong bond between dog and owner. Taking your emotional dog to an agility course will help build their confidence, challenge their mental and physical strength, and give them important skills they can take with them outside of the agility course. Many agility courses offer classes for dogs and owners, which is helpful if this is your first foray into agility. Some of the obstacles will be intimidating to your dog at first, but as they learn how to navigate them and trust you in the process, you'll see their confidence soar.
Step
1
Sign up for a class
Find an agility club or agility center in your area and sign up for a class. This will ensure you and your dog have a positive experience starting out with agility. The trainers will understand how to work with an emotional dog and teach you how to introduce each obstacle in a way that builds confidence.
Step
2
Practice makes perfect
Bring your emotional pup to the agility center for classes or to practice on a regular basis. The routine will help establish expectations for your pup, and the 30 minutes to an hour you spend working with them and challenging their skills will help get rid of anxiety and consistently build their confidence.
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Reading Time

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Any Day
Free
Easy
15 mins
Items needed
Book
Six-foot leash
Activity description
Reading out loud to dogs has been shown to help calm and relax them. In programs where children are learning to read, they read books to dogs in shelters, and both the children and the dogs benefited. When your emotional dog is restless and anxious, why not give reading to them a try. The sound of your voice is soothing, but you won't be giving them attention. They'll learn to settle and calm down on their own.
Step
1
Find a quiet spot
When your dog is acting emotional and anxious pick up a book to help them calm down. Grab a long leash, your current book (or the book you've been meaning to read) and find a quiet spot. Make sure you leash them to something sturdy or hold the leash. You don't want them to wander around.
Step
2
Focus on the book
Set a timer for 15 minutes and start reading. It doesn't matter what book you choose, but make sure you feel comfortable reading it out loud. Use a calm and soothing voice, and don't pay attention to your dog, even if they are pacing. Before the 15 minutes is up, they should settle down and start listening. When you finish, quietly unleash them and go about your day.
Step
3
Read every day
Make a commitment to read to your dog for 15 minutes each day. If possible read to them at the same time each day, but don't be afraid to break out your book if they are emotional or anxious about a new or stressful situation. With consistency, you should notice that they settle down quicker and quicker with each reading session.
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More Fun Ideas...

Leave It

Playing "leave it" is a great way to direct some of your dog's emotional energy and continue their training. By delaying gratification and learning to control their behavior, they'll start to lessen their anxiety. Each time they ignore the "distraction" make sure you reward them with a treat.

Go For a Run

Sometimes emotional dogs really just need to burn off additional energy. If your dog is a high-energy breed and has a tendency to be emotional or anxious, simply going for a run can help to calm their nerves. Just like with people, exercise can do wonders for a dog's emotional state.

Conclusion

Learning a few activities for emotional dogs will help your pup learn to soothe themselves, give them confidence in new situations, and help you feel more comfortable when your pup starts to get nervous. Many times all an emotional dog needs is to refocus their mind, burn off a little energy, and gain some confidence. Whether your dog was naturally born this way, or developed anxious and emotional tendencies from difficult life experiences, you have the ability to help them live a calm and happy life.