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All of my dogs are gorgeous and sweet. They're my babies, so of course, I'm biased; but I'm not the only one who thinks this about my dogs. Scout and Zoey have markings that make people stop and ask about their breed mix. In a perfect world, Scout and Zoey would sit sweetly and accept the compliments. I'd stand there proudly, talking about how smart my dogs are, about flying to Idaho to bring them home, and – most importantly – that they're raw fed.
It's like a damn badge, I tell you.
In my reality, my dogs do stand there nicely, taking in their surroundings and then the stranger makes one major mistake – they take a step towards Scout and Zoey and my sweet, gorgeous dogs lose their flippin' minds.
So now when people ask me if they can greet my dogs, I say “no, they're not good with strangers.” Yeah, I get judged for not socializing them enough, but I no longer care about what some random stranger has to say about my dog parenting skills.
Leave my damn dogs alone.
Scout and Zoey are Anxious Dogs
At home, my dogs are great! They're in their comfort zone; they know the boundaries and what's expected of them, and they feel safe. They have never dealt with abuse or neglect. Scout and Zoey went from one loving home to our loving home after an 8-hour drive from Idaho (don't tell the rental company we had puppies in their Explorer).
With the exception of fireworks, thunderstorms, and wind storms, our dogs rarely get shaken up.
But take these two away from the house, and Scout is the calm before the storm and Zoey is a shivering mess. But it is possible to expose them to new experiences without turning them into a quivering pile of nervous dog.
1 – Add a Natural Supplement to their Raw Meal
I usually – like 99% of the time – walk my dogs very early in the morning before the crowds come out. Walking multiple dogs is easier when I don't have to compete with other dog walkers, joggers, and cyclists. I add Ewegurt, which is a natural supplement made from sheep's milk, to my dogs' breakfast, which calms them down and allows them to enjoy the ride to our location with little stress.
Within thirty minutes of consuming Ewegurt, my dogs are more relaxed and ready for their adventure. I like to take them to new places because there're so many new things to see and smell.
- CLICK HERE to order Ewegurt for your dog in Sardines, Emu, or Beef Heart
2 – Prepare for the Walk
I learned a while ago that my dogs pick up on my energy and if I'm stressed before we leave for our walk, they'll get stressed too. So I get organized first.
Before the dogs realize that we're leaving (while they're eating or the night before), I take their harnesses and leashes out to the car. I grab my Dog Walking bag (yes, I have a bag specifically for dog walks) and make sure it's stocked with poop bags (Earth Rated is the BEST, right?), dog treats, my phone, wallet, and pepper spray (which gives me a sense of security if I'm going alone). In our community, early morning and late evening walks may involve a run in with coyotes. While the coyotes mostly keep their distance, stories from others about their occasional boldness inspired me to purchase pepper spray. I haven't had to use it.
Being organized allows us to leave without delay.
- I use Ezy-Dog Quick Fit Dog Harness with Scout and Zoey – these go on fast and remain secure.
- I use Ezy-Dog Chest Plate Custom Fit Dog Harness with Rodrigo and Sydney
- I prefer Ezy-Dog CUJO Shock Absorbing Leashes – they keep the dogs closer to me, making our walks safer
3 – Bring Healthy, High-Value Dog Treats
I'm a huge fan of protein treats for my dogs when we're on a walk. The more fragrant and chewy, the better, because I need them to be able to distract my dogs from cyclists, joggers, other dogs, and that damn Waskly Wabbit that darts out on the trail. High-value treats redirect my dog's focus, giving us a moment to reset and calm down.
I recommend the following brands because they come in a bag small enough to fit in my dog walking purse (or coat pocket), the bags are easy to open and close, I trust the ingredients, and the dogs love them:
4 – Meet a Friend for a Pack Walk
I sometimes take Zoey or Scout on solo walks, but they have a lot more fun when we go on pack walks. They have a few friends – Frankie, D'Art, Teddy – and when we walk in a group, we keep other dogs and people away. People don't mind approaching one or two dogs; it's intimidating to approach a group of big dogs.
All of our dogs can enjoy the walk, the scenery, each other's company, and not deal with Stranger Danger.
When walking with friends, I like to arrive a few minutes early if I notice that Zoey is more anxious than usual. This allows her to walk off that extra energy before she becomes overwhelmed. She's ready to go when her friends arrive. When we walk with D'Art and Teddy, we can arrive right on time, because the dogs miraculously calm each other down – especially if we're going to a favorite spot. It's quite the scene – a pack of dogs barking loudly at each other (we think they're catching up), Teddy bouncing high in the air in excitement, and two women standing there waiting.
After that racket, no one is going to bother us on our walk.
5 – Praise Calm Behavior
I spend the entire walk praising calm behavior, praising good listening, and comforting anxiety through redirection. When Zoey is feeling anxious, she trots out a habit that she picked up as a puppy – she reaches up to be picked up. She weighs more than 60 pounds – I can't pick her up anymore.
Instead of rewarding her fear and discomfort in a new situation, I distract her by walking in a new direction (praise praise praise) or pointing out something to smell (praise praise praised).
This does make the walks take a little longer, but since I'm not running late for brain surgery, I don't mind taking the extra time.
Why Ewegurt is Important for My Anxious Dogs
Ewegurt doesn't eliminate anxiety and fear; it reduces stress and helps my dogs calm down. From there, I can introduce training that will help build my dogs' confidence. Thanks to Ewegurt, my dogs can greet people and other dogs calmly. Scout and Zoey have never been comfortable with noses sniffing their butts, but they are more tolerant thanks to Ewegurt.
Ewegurt has been used in several ways with our dogs:
- Helping Rodrigo relax and sleep well when he has an upset tummy.
- Helping our dogs relax when we have people working on our property or guests visiting.
- Helping our dogs relax when there was a schedule change.
- Helping our dogs adjust to having a third human move into our home.
For my dogs, this has been a miracle supplement that makes life less stressful both at home and when we're out on the town. Last weekend, I took Zoey to Home Depot with me (did you know you can take dogs into some Home Depots?) and she was freaked the hell out – but I followed the steps and she quickly calmed down and became interested in her new surroundings.
We spent 30 minutes walking around the garden section (both inside and outside the store) and then we went home. Usually, when our dogs get home, they take a long nap and get to catch up on writing or The Real Housewives (Kelly on the OC is a hot mess).
I hope to continue taking Scout and Zoey on outings every weekend to help build their confidence.
Have You Heard of SniffSpot?
Update! Hey, Y'all, it's 2018 and I have an update that you HAVE to check out. Have you heard of SniffSpot? This is a service that allows dog owners to rent someone's yard or property for an hour. Although this is a new company, there are SniffSpots all around the globe and more are signing up every week.
I recently took our four dogs to a SniffSpot near our home and they had a blast. For 45 minutes, they ran around a fully fenced property sniffing everything, chasing each other, and having fun. It cost $15 per dog and while that can add up when you have a lot of dogs, the comfort I feel knowing that my dogs are safe (we can't go to dog parks) and having fun makes this a worthwhile investment.
I received compensation in exchange for writing this post about Ewegurt, a 2016-18 sponsor of Keep the Tail Wagging. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions and experiences shared are my own. This post contains affiliate links, which means that I will receive a commission should you choose to purchase a product I recommended. Rodrigo and Zoey are anxious, reactive dogs and Ewegurt has worked to alleviate their stress naturally. I no longer worry about leaving my dogs when there is going to be a storm and I look forward to taking them on walks.