A “safe zone” is a place your dog can go to feel comfort when they might be scared.
It could be a small room, a crate, a bathroom, a tub, or even a closet.
We set up a “Safe Zone Routine” where our dog regularly uses their Zone. This way, it’s a normal, predictable occurrence. And our dogs are much more likely to feel safe there.
Training to Love the Safe Zone
- Choose your Safe Zone location.
- Where possible, pick a place your dog naturally gravitates towards.
- It should be easy to turn lights on there and ideally there aren’t too many windows.
- Lay down some comfy bedding or a cool surface, whichever your dog prefers.
- Have something awesome happen in the Zone every day: mealtime, treats, food puzzles, and/or chews are all good examples! Ideally, he spends at least 10 minutes in here every other day when you’re first starting. (And then at least once a week when it’s not storm/fireworks season.)
- Play white noise or classical music each time he has a session in here. This will eventually help to drown out some of the storm/fireworks sounds. And having it play all the time makes it normal!
- Consider using Adaptil (the mock pheromone for doggie relaxation) in this room. The diffuser and travel spray are both good options for this.
Helping Your Dog with Confinement
- Ideally, your dog can freely access his Safe Zone or leave it, but that’s not always possible in some households!
- If your dog must be confined, work on having him feel good in his Safe Zone without you, too! Aim for a successful session at least 3 times at each step before moving on:
- Hang out with your dog together in the Safe Zone with his goodie with the door/gate open. (Do your own thing, just your presence is great!)
- Hang out with him with the door/gate shut, right next to the Zone. Start with shutting it for 30 seconds to a minute, and work up to 20 minutes. Do this in gradually increasing periods. If your dog panics, you can open the gate and try a shorter duration the next time.
- Have your dog do the same routine, now with you out of sight! (You can monitor him via webcam if helpful.)
Using the Safe Zone for Storms and Fireworks
- On days where you expect storms or fireworks, have the Safe Zone all set up and ready to go!
- Turn on your white noise/music before you expect things to start.
- When noises start, encourage your dog to use his Safe Zone. (Don’t force him anywhere!)
- Provide favorite chews or stuffed Kongs just like you normally do! Because your dog practices this regularly without scary noises, he may be more likely to be able to eat during the scary stuff! (But it’s okay if he doesn’t.)
Things not working like you expected? Let your trainer know so we can help you out!