Pro: new living room addition on the back of your house. Con: energetic lab with noise-induced anxiety.
Sound like a familiar situation? Renovations alone can be stressful enough, without even beginning to worry about the toll that loud noises, new people, and clanking power tools can take on your pet.
While some pets are comfortable with high volume, 25%- 49% of dog owners report their dogs are afraid of loud noises and respond with fear. Loud noises could be anything from fireworks, to thunder, to noises in the street. Home construction can certainly be as loud as any of these things!
Sometimes this fear is a conditioned — or learned — response, and sometimes it is due to simply high sensitivity in pets. While you don’t want to encourage fear or anxious behaviors, when you see the fear in your pets, you have to find constructive ways to help them overcome it.
1) Create a Plan
Before any chaos ensues, establish a plan to manage your pet’s fears and anxiety. Fortunately, construction in your home is rarely unplanned. You should have a good sense of the timeline of when your home project will begin. This gives you a good opportunity to plan for your pet’s care, as well. The more prepared you are, the less stressed you will be. The less stressed you are, the less stressed your pet will be.
For starters, know when any contractors will be arriving to work on your house. Not just the day, but the time as well. Plan as if they might arrive early. Set aside doggie treats, toys, games, and any other pet necessities so they don’t get buried under tarps or behind furniture.
Communicate your plan to your family and to handymen coming and going, especially if you are keeping your pet in close proximity to any of the action. This shows that you’re serious about upholding the plan, and also provides background information to prevent someone absent-mindedly leaving doors ajar, paint cans open or tools propped precariously in reach of your pet.
2) Give Your Pet a Good Workout
Before and during the renovations, get outside with your pet. Go for a walk or for a swim if it’s warm enough. Not only can the excitement of the great outdoors wear out your dog, but a solid run will help him release pent-up energy, too. Just make sure to always leash your pet before leaving the house, even if your best bud is well versed in vocal commands. Construction equipment, such as backhoes, can travel at speeds up to 25 miles per hour, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
A good walk or run leaves less energy for your pet to spend on being anxious or afraid in the midst of any construction-related commotion.
3) Create a Safe Place
In the midst of a renovation, when everything is unfamiliar and out-of-place, your pet needs somewhere to retreat. As part of your planning stage, find a quiet room where your pet can be kept away from the action. If possible, this safe place should not be his crate — though placing the open crate in this safe room might be a good idea.
If your pet feels trapped and afraid, he may injure himself in a panic to break free. Fill the room with comfortable and familiar things. Whether you have a doggie bed, fuzzy blanket, an old chair, or toys, make the space cozy for your pet. Give him something to curl up in, a place to crawl under, and something to play with. Stock his space with fresh food and water.
Keep this safe space as far away from the noise as possible!
4) Drown Out Loud Noises
Calming music, white noise machines, the television, or even a fan can help block out some of the pounding and banging coming from your new construction.
If you have a young puppy, you may even be able to accustom him to some loud noises by gradually turning the volume down on your TV or stereo over the course of the project.
5) Create Distractions
While music or TV may be distracting enough, other good distractions include playing games with your pet. Don’t just lock him in the backroom and forget about him until the renovations are complete.
Stay with him, give him a belly rub, watch TV with him, play games, and maybe work on a new trick if he is calm enough. Who knows — some quality puppy time may be just what you need to relax to get away from all the havoc yourself.
6) Maintain Regular Schedule
If your pet isn’t running rampant through the living room, begging for scraps, treats, a walk, or dinner, it can be easy to lose track of the time. Keep an eye on the clock and set alarms if you have to. Maintaining your pet’s schedule is key to soothing his anxiety and stress. When everything else is upturned, your pet should be able to count on his regular walk, his standard mealtimes, and any other daily routines he’s used to.
7) Monitor Stress and Anxiety
Through all of this, keep a close eye on your pet. Look for signs that your pet is anxious or afraid of any other potential behavior issues. If a safe space, distractions, white noise, and other tips don’t help, soothe your pet with massages or consider purchasing an anxiety wrap. Anxiety wraps can help calm your dog during thunderstorms, fireworks displays, or home renovations such as this.
If your pet still is distressed, talk to your veterinarian about behavior therapy or medication options.
About the Author: Megan Wild is obsessed with her four-legged best friend and mutt. She loves coming up with ways she can show her dog how much she appreciates her companionship. When she’s not hanging out with her dog, Megan writes on her blogs, Your Wild Home and Dragon Resume, about dog-centric home decor.