Create Calm In Chaos For Your Dog–And Yourself

My dog Honey spent an hour watching us loading a truck. She daintily avoids walking under the stepladder in the foyer. And she barks when we’re upstairs but she can’t follow because of the plastic drop cloths on the stairs.

How can we create calm in the middle of chaos for our dog. And for ourselves?

Honey the golden retriever is exhausted.

There’s so much going on I’m just exhausted. And look at poor hedge hog. The chaos has taken all the stuffing right out of him…with only a little help from me.

Moving Chaos

Moving comes up pretty high on lists of most stressful life events.

We’re usually pretty good at it.

My husband can pack a box or a truck to make the maximum use of space. I can keep a thousand details in my head at once so nothing gets lost.

But our current move beats anything we’ve done before.

We’re taking things out of the house to make it look roomy and comfortable when buyers come to look. But then we’ll need to bring them back into the house when we sell everything we own.

Oh, and we’re making repairs and painting all while dealing with tons of snow and sub-freezing temperatures that are literally damaging our house every day. Right now it’s -4ºF with a -22º F wind chill (-20ºC and -30ºC with wind chill).

It’s getting tough to pack, paint, and repair (while still working our jobs) every day without everything devolving into chaos.

And Honey feels it too. We have to create some calm in the middle of the chaos.

Honey the golden retriever is covered in snow.

Sure, I’m covered in snow. But there’s a lot less chaos out here than in the house.

Dogs (And People) Adapt

One thing I’ve learned from fostering dogs is how incredibly adaptable they are.

Every time we fostered a dog, my husband asked if we should adopt the pup to save him the stress of having to adapt to yet another family. No, really.

But every time, the dogs and puppies we fostered left our home quite happily at the side of their new person or in the arms of the shelter staff who’d be caring for them until they found their permanent home.

It appears that many dogs can handle a little chaos if they can hang onto something that is important to them.

For some dogs, knowing they’ll get food or treats on a regular basis serves as their security in the middle of confusion. Other dogs have a favorite toy they won’t let go. Even our extremely fearful foster dog, Cherie, could handle a little bit of chaos knowing her friend Honey was there as a secure base.

Honey the Golden Retriever poses with hound mix Cherie,

Cherie was most relaxed when Honey was nearby.

So what can we do to create calm for Honey when she sees chaos all around her?

What Calms Honey

Honey always knows she’s going to be fed by a certain time. In fact, she insists on it. Fairly loudly.

So what makes her most secure in the middle of chaos? What does she miss the most if we forget it when we’re busy?

I’ve noticed two things:

  • rough housing with Mike
  • sleeping near me while I work

If we can find a clean area to play tug or if Honey can wrestle with Mike on the bed, she relieves a lot of stress. In truth, so does Mike.

Honey the golden retriever plays tug with crab.

C’mon. Let’s take this crab apart.

And although it makes me feel guilty to sit quietly when I should be up rushing around to get stuff done, it does both me and Honey good. So I set time aside to work, read, or just stare into space because I’m too tired to do anything else while Honey dozes with her head on my knee.

It’s a way to create a little calm in the middle of the chaos.

Honey the golden retriever puts her head on my leg.

A common view when I’m working.

Do It For Your Dog

I know S’Waggers who are attending school, who work lots of hours, who are caregivers for ill family members. All of these things are stressful. All of these things cause chaos.

But you’ve got to create a place of calm inside the chaos.

If not for you, do it for your dog. And maybe that trail run with your dog, snowball fight, or cuddling by the fireplace together will multiply the calm until it overwhelms the chaos.

Your Turn: What does your dog find most calming when there’s a crazy amount of chaos around your house? Does it calm you too?

And the winner is…

Thank you to everyone who wanted a chance to win Kari Neumeyer’s Bark and Lunge: Saving My Dog From Training Mistakes. The winner, chosen by, was Taryn.

Congratulations! As soon as you send me your address, I’ll pass it on to Kari to send your autographed copy.

If you didn’t win, you can pick up your copy of Bark and Lunge at Amazon. Click the image to order.

Disclosure: If you click the image of Kari’s book, you will go directly to Amazon. If you order something, I will earn a small commission but your item will not cost you more.

Thank you for supporting Something Wagging.

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  1. Funny, I just started working on a post on how dogs react to routine, or the lack of routine. We did a pretty major renovation a few years ago that was really disruptive and poor Tino…he was blind and he struggled at first, but then developed new routines that he settled into. Luckily they are very adaptable.

  2. Excellent post, Pamela! We all need some calm in our chaotic lives, that’s for sure. And the first thing I have to do for the dogs every morning is to take them out in the yard for their “constitutional”! Once they (especially Ducky) have had that first chance to relieve themselves, they are happy to take a nap while I drink my first cup of coffee. And I enjoy watching them run after each other for a few minutes — it calms me down and makes me smile. Or is it the other way around? Whatever. It’s good for me too. Then, after their breakfast, we go outside again for another romp and relief session. The only time I don’t enjoy it is when it’s raining, especially in the winter.

  3. Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Oh, boy! I won! Thank you so much. I look forward to reading this book.

    My post had a little comment about routine as well. My guys are very much creature’s of habit!

  4. Traveling to a different hotel room each night with windows too high for Zack to do his guard duty is chaos for him. I’m so glad you wrote this post! I neglected to bring squeaky tug toys, I think a good tug-a-war-chase-around-the-room is in order. Zoe’s been doing well with full body massages.

    • Poor Zack. Luckily, you can probably buy a squeaky tug toy in every town.

      BTW, when we stayed in hotels with our wannabe guard dogs, Agatha and Christie, we found they relaxed more if we could visually isolate them from the place that compelled them to alert us.

      In their case, it was the hotel room door. Once we moved their pillows to the other side of the bed so they weren’t as close to the door, they were able to stand down and take some time off.

      Maybe a similar approach could help Zack?

      Really excited you’re on the road after all the prep time. Once the house is on the market and I have less to do, I’m looking forward to curling up on the couch with my laptop and getting caught up on everyone’s adventures.

      • That’s the exact technique we use at hotels with our guards dogs. We close blinds, block the hotel door, and play with squeaky toys or cuddle on the bed. Blocking off their ‘guard zones’ really helps them to calm down.

  5. A long walk or run is our stress reliever. Mom and us dogs love getting out, unplugging, and just having a fun long walk or run. It relieves stress, gets the mind going and keeps us fit. Yep even at -20F we go for 20 mins at a crack and it is exhilarating!

  6. As long as they can get outside to play that keeps our crew pretty happy when the routine is otherwise disrupted. That and as long as they get to go up to bed at night with us. Even skipping meals (say if someone had to have surgery, or we’re gone out at meal time) doesn’t seem to bother them too much. But at a certain time of night they know it’s time to go to bed and they are so content once we get up there!

  7. That’s so true! Even when we’re on vacation and out of our normal routine, Haley needs a little TLC to feel like everything’s normal amid any vacation chaos. For her, that just means some cuddling and belly rubs a few times a day. We’re getting ready to start a major kitchen remodeling job soon, so I’ll be doing lots of belly rubs and playtime to keep her relaxed.

  8. Mauja and Atka are definitely routine dogs. I’m not sure when our next move will be (I’m hoping sooner rather than later!), but it will definitely disrupt their routine. For our first few moves, I spent the day out and about with Mauja doing her favorite things while Nick stayed home with the movers. I can’t decide if it was easier for her to be away from the commotion, but come back to an empty house, or for her to know the commotion is going on and see her home be picked apart.

  9. Firstly, very good of Honey to destuff the hedgehog to ensure she doesn’t take up too much room when packed or on the boat. I find getting out and walking with Bd does wonders for me. Not only do I feel so much better but I progress feelings so much better when I walk – no idea why! This weekend I did nothing but walk Bd and snuggle up on the sofa with him watching crappy tv, and I have not felt so good, relaxed and positive in a very very long time!

  10. Stress becomes an issue whenever Harley and I are apart for several days. Doodle Dad had him this weekend, and with the frigid temps, he wasn’t able to exercise him as much. That’s our key when I’m missing – exercise and lot’s of it.