We are having our roof replaced today. I probably don't have to tell you, the dogs are not happy about all the noise. When the crew first started walking around on top of our heads, Buddy and Chloe went barking mad. But I just ignored them, and continued working. After about 5 minutes they relaxed. Every once in a while, when there's a big bang or other new noise up there, one will jump up barking and get the other one in on the act as well. I don't say or do anything and they calm right back down.
The reason I detail this is to remind owners just how effective our own reactions can be on dog behavior. Too often owners unknowingly create anxiety in their dogs. I'll often get complaints from someone that she her dog is uncontrollable and high-strung. When I meet with this person, she is high-strung and anxious herself. Well, no wonder. She even makes me nervous!
I often see people treating dogs like babies. This is unfortunately rampant among the smaller breeds. Picking up your dog and carrying it around denies him of the chance to learn how to manage around other people and dogs. This fosters nervousness and diminishes social skills.
Of course there are times, in extreme situations, you should pick up a small dog or provide a dog with comfort. But the key is to find the right balance. Are you supporting your dog, or over-exaggerating the situation?
The best way to support your dog in any situation is to manage the environment as much as possible. In my current situation, I can’t stop the noise. As long as my dogs behave reasonably they can continue to hang out with me. (They’re actually resting calmly right now!) But when I leave later, or if they start becoming more anxious, I will intervene. I will put them on the lowest level to minimize irritation and make them as comfortable as possible. And when I return, we’ll step right back into our normal routine to cue them nothing has changed, all is well.