Battersea’s guide to creating a safe space for your dog

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Do dogs need their own space?

All dogs need a safe space of their own where they can relax and know they won’t be disturbed. Not only will this make your dog feel even more comfortable at home, but it will also be helpful for when you need to leave them for a short period of time, as you can encourage them to settle in their safe space.

Firstly, it’s important to make sure that your dog is comfortable being left alone for a short period of time. Dogs are pack animals, and this traces back to their ancestral instincts. If you’ve ever wondered why your canine companion follows you around a lot of the time, this is why! Some dogs may be more anxious about being left for a certain period of time, whereas others may settle more quickly. Be sure to look out for the following anxious dog symptoms:

  • Excessive panting
  • Lip licking
  • Pacing
  • Yawning
  • Tail between legs
  • Ears pinned back
  • Paw raises
Wary dog looking at someone.

Here are our 4 tips for creating a safe space for your dog

Encourage your dog to be independent

If you notice your dog may be showing signs of anxiety before being left alone, they could be struggling with their confidence. The good news is that this can easily be resolved with some simple training. For example, you could teach them a fun new trick or practice behaviours that they’re already familiar with, such as ‘sit’, ‘lie down’ and ‘paw’. Be sure to offer them plenty of praise and reward them with a treat when they engage in the desired behaviour. We recommend reading our dog body language guide to better understand your dog's feelings and train them more effectively.

If your dog is particularly anxious and struggles to be away from you, even for short periods of time, then it’s worth teaching them how to settle on their own. Start by filling a food dispensing toy with some of your dog’s favourite treats and place this on the floor while you’re relaxing or watching TV. Place the toy further away from you each time over a period of time. When they’re occupied with it, be sure to go in and out of the room as normal. As your dog starts to get more used to this, you can even try placing the food dispensing toy in different rooms around your home. This will keep your dog busy and gradually encourage them to be more independent.

As most dogs learn certain behaviours associated with separation anxiety from an early age, it can take a bit of time for them to unlearn this. Only leave them for short periods of time at first, before slowly increasing this gradually, a minute at a time if necessary, with toys and items that will keep them occupied.

Start creating a safe space for your dog

Once your dog is comfortable being on their own, you can start creating their safe space.

A great way to create a safe space for your dog is by covering a large blanket around a stable item such a table, so that your dog can retreat to the space underneath it. If your dog has a crate and is used to spending time in that, then this will work perfectly too. Make their safe space cosy and snug by adding lots of soft blankets and your dog's favourite crate toys for an added sense of security. This will help them to build positive associations with the space.

Owner comforting dog.

Avoid limiting their safe space to one location

Dogs will usually have more than one preferred spot around the house. This can be their bed, the couch, their favourite spot on the floor, or even a room in your home they’re most comfortable being in. You may find that your dog is most comfortable when they’re by your side! Be sure to inform members of your family and guests you have over about your dog’s safe space. That way, they will know where it is and when to leave your dog be when they’re in it.

Desensitise your dog to loud sounds

It’s also important to desensitise your dog to loud sounds to help keep them calm in situations that can make them anxious. An example of this would be them hearing and reacting to fireworks.

Crowd watching fireworks, celebrating.

In your home, you can practice playing some sound effects that replicate loud noises, such as fireworks. You can do this on your phone or a similar device. Start by getting your dog settled in their safe space before playing the sound at the lowest volume. Slowly increase the volume until you notice your dog reacting to the sounds. At this stage, it’s important to leave the volume at this level to allow them to get used to it.

Practice doing this 3-4 times a day. With time, your dog will stop reacting to the sounds and this is when you can start to build a positive association between your dog and the sounds. When your dog is settled in their safe space, play the sounds at a low volume again. As soon as your dog hears the sounds, give them a treat and reassure them. This is so they start to associate the sound with something positive happening.

Creating a safe space for dogs requires keen observation and a lot of practice. Continue to practice this a few times over the course of a few days, while gradually increasing the volume of the sound. This will help your dog to associate the sounds with something they enjoy when they’re in their safe space, while minimizing the chance of them reacting in real situations when they hear loud and unfamiliar sounds.

Please note that there's no tail wag quite like the one from a healthy pup, so make sure to have our SuperDog supplements on hand. These daily delights not only make for a tasty treat but also play a role in supporting your dog's overall health and vitality.

Vitabiotics is proud to be a long-term supporter of Battersea. Vitabiotics donates 35p plus VAT of every pack of SuperDog sold. This will help fund their vital work supporting dogs and cats in their centres and around the world.

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