Dogs are territorial, so gradual exposure is crucial when introducing your dog to beds that are unfamiliar.
Positive reinforcement and familiar scents help your dog enjoy their new bed.
Use calming aids like inserts, sprays, and chews to help your dog achieve a good night's sleep.
You bought your dog a new bed, and you can hardly wait for them to use it. First, there needs to be a proper new dog bed introduction. If you have an anxious dog, introducing them to their bed takes some finesse.
If you do it abruptly, your dog may look at the new bed negatively and avoid using it. Follow these steps when introducing your dog to beds unfamiliar to them.
Let the Dog Explore the Bed
When you bring any new object home, your dog may be wary of it. If you try forcing them to use it, that may backfire. First, there needs to be some dog bed exploration.
Depending on the packaging and materials of the bed, it's a good idea to unpack it and let it air out before allowing your dog to sniff it. The plastic packaging may leave an unpleasant smell that your dog doesn't like. You don't want to create a negative experience from the start.
After the bed airs out, put it in the room so your dog explores it in their own time. You probably notice on their walks that they like to check out everything without coaxing. This applies especially to new objects. Being in their own territory, they're especially curious about new things coming in.
Use Positive Reinforcement
When your dog shows any interest in the bed, reward them with treats or other positive reinforcement. Give them physical affection with scratches or petting, as well as vocal affirmations. You want them to create a positive connection with their bed.
Offer treats or praise when your dog sniffs the bed and then when they paw at or step on it. They may even lie down beside it, which is a significant step. Eventually, of course, the goal is for your dog to lie on the bed, but don't force them.
Any dog training must include positive reinforcement, which in this case, helps your dog learn to love their bed.
Dogs thrive on routine. This is especially true of dogs with anxiety. When unexpected things happen, stress levels rise, and a dog doesn't know how to deal with it. They sometimes fear the unknown, so gradual exposure is critical.
Don't immediately replace their old bed with the new one. Take away the old bed without warning, and your dog might have a sleepless night. Gradual exposure to the new bed makes your dog more comfortable. Let your dog choose the bed themselves.
Dogs explore the world through their nose, so that's the first way they check out the bed. Even after airing it out, it has an unfamiliar scent after the new or plastic scent is gone. It may not necessarily be unpleasant, just different.
If the bed still smells odd, your dog may sniff it and react negatively. Consider using one of your dog's blankets, toys, or other objects. Put your dog's belongings on the bed as they explore it. Familiar scents use your dog's nose to ease their anxiety.
Another "friendly" smell comes from their owner. Rub your hands all over the bed when you remove it from the package. Use one of your own unlaundered shirts to make the bed smell recognizable. Familiar scents use the fact that your dog claims you as "theirs" to cause your dog to take possession of the bed.
Consistency is a big key to successful dog training. It also goes along with a dog's need for familiarity. Put the bed in the same place every time you bring it out to enforce that routine. They should see it as part of their everyday environment.
Once your dog knows the bed is just another piece of furniture, they're more comfortable using it. The consistent bed placement shows that nothing changes, and they know what to expect.
When training your dog to use their bed, do it in a quiet environment free from distraction.
A dog with anxiety needs a place to go when they feel nervous. Their bed should be that safe place. Consistent bed placement is essential so your dog knows where to go for safety.
During a thunderstorm, for example, or at the sound of sudden loud noises, your dog should know exactly where to go and immediately get there when needed. You may even decide to put beds in multiple rooms. This comes in handy if the way to their bed gets blocked. Ensure you don't move the beds around once your dog learns where they are located.
If your dog still hesitates, make the new bed more appealing. Encouraging bed use involves placing your dog's toys or treats on the bed and praising them when they lie on it.
Certified professional dog trainer and writer for the American Kennel Club Stephanie Gibeault says, "If they look at it as a punishment, you'll have a much harder time convincing them to stay there. Instead, persuade them that their place is a great spot to be by using positive training and high-value treats."
Every dog loves treats, so they naturally want to go wherever they find them. Create a positive association with the bed, so training them to use it becomes much more manageable. Put a food puzzle like a KONG on your dog's bed so they spend a lot of time doing something they enjoy while on their bed.
Regular exercise helps too. A long walk makes your dog tired, and they find a bed very inviting.
Use Calming Aids
To make your dog's bed a place of relaxation, consider using calming dog aids. There are pockets on the Calming Cuddle Bed especially made for Calming Inserts. These inserts contain a valerian oil-based formula with other natural calming aromatics that promote relaxation.
Another way to use calming aromatics is with calming sprays. Some sprays contain natural ingredients like chamomile, lavender, or hemp seed oil. Others use pheromones that mimic a mother dog nursing their young. Spray them directly on your dog's bed or plug in a diffuser that distributes calming scents into the air.
There are also calming chews to give your dog before bedtime. These chews contain natural ingredients like chamomile, L-tryptophan, and L-theanine to soothe and relax your dog. After your dog becomes accustomed to their new bed, taper off the chews until they sleep through the night without the help of calming dog aids.
Patience and Persistence
Introducing your dog to their bed isn't all about training your dog. You must train yourself with patience and persistence. Your dog takes a journey of dog bed exploration, but it's a journey for you too.
Introducing a dog to their bed isn't as simple as it sounds for a dog with anxiety. Besides patience and persistence, it requires empathy for your dog. They don't understand their feelings. Fear triggers their instincts, and they react by avoiding unfamiliar or uncomfortable experiences.
If your dog doesn't like the bed at first, be patient. There may be a certain unfamiliar smell, or they may be a little on edge that day. Try the introduction another day, along with some of the other calming methods in this article.
Put yourself in your dog's paws to gain some understanding.
Completing the Journey
Once their journey of dog bed exploration ends, your dog finds some great treasures. Your dog's rewards are relaxation, a calm retreat, and a good night's sleep in a calming dog bed. The trek doesn't have to be a difficult one. With patience and persistence, help your dog find their way to a new bed and new experience.
Encouraging bed use for your dog gives them more independence. This dramatically helps a dog with anxiety. Help your dog journey from anxiety to a zen state by introducing them to a calming dog bed.
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