Having home repairs done can be a stressful time for both you and your dog. The workers coming in and out, the noises from tools and equipment, and disruption of your normal routine can all cause anxiety in your furry friend. While some dogs take home repairs in stride, many become agitated, fearful, or even aggressive when faced with the unfamiliar workers and sounds. This unwelcome behavior can frustrate the workers and endanger your dog. The good news is that with proper training and management, you can help your dog stay calm and relaxed during home repairs.
Start Training Well in Advance
Don't wait until the repair crew shows up at your door to start acclimating your dog to construction noises and the presence of strangers in your home. Begin a desensitization and counterconditioning program weeks or even months before planned repairs. The goal is to slowly get your dog more comfortable with triggers like loud power tools, banging, people in hard hats and work boots, etc.
Start by playing audio recordings of common repair noises at a very low volume while your dog is eating or playing. Reward them with treats for calm behavior as you very gradually increase the volume over multiple sessions. You can find recordings of construction sounds online or make your own.
Once your dog seems comfortable with loud audio samples, have repair crew volunteers make noises while out of sight from your home. Feed your dog treats as they hear hammers banging on the garage door, drill noises from the sidewalk, etc. Very gradually bring these noises closer as your dog remains calm.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Your training must be based entirely on positive reinforcement, never punishment. Yelling at your dog or putting them away when they seem stressed will only make matters worse. Instead, patiently reward any calm behavior, no matter how brief, with tasty treats, praise, play, or anything your dog loves. Maintain a lighthearted, upbeat attitude. Over time, your dog will associate repair noises with good things happening.
Provide plenty of rewards for obedience commands like "sit" and "down" during repair noises. A well-exercised and trained dog will usually handle disruptions better, so be sure basic training is solid before repairs begin. Always set your dog up for success by starting slow and providing copious rewards at each step. End sessions on a positive note before your dog loses focus.
Create a Calm Space
Giving your dog a designated safe space to retreat when needed is key. This should be in an interior room away from the work noise, preferably with a comfort item like a bed with familiar worn blankets. Feed them special chews or puzzles with frozen peanut butter only in this calm area.
Use an Adaptil diffuser a few weeks prior to absolutely saturate the calm space with appeasing pheromones. Lavender oil, calming music, and dim lighting can further soothe your dog in their retreat. Reward your dog every time they go to their calm place, no matter the circumstance. You want them to see it as a sanctuary of safety.
Provide Plenty of Exercise
Make sure your dog gets plenty of vigorous physical exercise every day before repair work begins and during the process. A long walk, jog, or swim can help metabolize your dog's stress hormones. Fetch, tug, and nose games also provide needed mental stimulation. An exercised dog will usually cope with stressful situations much better.
Try to stick to your normal exercise routine during the repairs as much as possible. Getting your dog out of the house for an hour really helps them reset if the noises or work crew have made them anxious or overstimulated. Just be sure they are confined away from any dangerous areas in your absence.
Confine Your Dog When You're Not Home
You must keep your dog safely away from the workers and equipment if no one is home to supervise. Leave them in a confined area like a crate, exercise pen, or one dog-proofed room behind a closed door. Provide plenty of enrichment items like food puzzles, chews, and toys to keep them busy and distracted.
Never assume your friendly dog will be on their best behavior around repair crews without your presence. Many dogs become stressed and territorial, attempting to guard their home from "intruders". Protect your dog and workers by preventing unsupervised interactions. Adhere to confinement and separation religiously.
You may need to board your dog elsewhere on days with lots of intensive work and noise if they have severe separation anxiety. Their own safety comes first. Consult your veterinarian if separation proves too difficult for your pet.
Use Calming Supplements If Needed
Some dogs need the added support of calming supplements to remain relaxed during extremely stressful events. Talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication, natural chews, pheromone collars, or over-the-counter supplements made with ingredients like melatonin, tryptophan, chamomile, and Alpha-Casozepine.
Use such products cautiously under your vet's guidance, only when truly needed. Introduce supplements well in advance to observe your dog's reaction. Discontinue use if any negative side effects occur. While helpful for some, anxiety remedies are not mandatory for every pet. Address other aspects of training and management first.
Keep Your Dog Leashed and Supervised
When you are home to monitor the situation directly, keep your leashed dog by your side at all times. Try tying their leash to your belt loop for added safety and hands-free control. Continually reward calm behavior with tasty treats.
Be alert in reading your dog's body language. If they start to get wide-eyed, pant excessively, tremble, or seem fixated on the work activity, they could be losing control. Immediately guide them to their calm place and let them settle before trying again. Don't force interactions that push your dog over threshold.
Interrupt any attempts to charge, grab clothing, or jump on workers. Redirect their attention to basic cues like "sit" that they find calming. Simply remain neutral and calm yourself, setting your dog up for success. Remove them from the room briefly if needed to help them re-focus.
Create Physical Barriers
Use baby gates, exercise pens, or closed doors to block off access to work zones if feasible. This prevents your dog from barging into an unsafe area or annoying workers. Containerize the noise and entice your dog to their retreat space in another part of the home.
If the repair zone cannot be fully isolated due to space constraints, have your dog drag a lightweight leash so you can easily steer them away from trouble spots as needed. Never leave doors wide open that lead to chaotic work areas. The more you physically restrict access, the less chance your dog can trigger their own anxiety by investigating.
Provide Plenty of Mental Stimulation
Increase games, training sessions, puzzle toys, and chews during the repair process to tire your dog's brain. Work their noggin as much as possible on positive activities. Stuff a Kong or Toppl toy with your dog's kibble or treats and seal with peanut butter.
Rotate novel toys to keep things exciting. Hide treats around your house and encourage sniffing them out. Have new tricks ready to train like spinning, crawling, or walking backward. A mentally stimulated dog will better handle disruptions. Make sure brainwork complements all the physical exercise they get.
Practice Obedience Commands
Rehearse basic cues like "sit", "down", "stay", "leave it", etc. multiple times per day during the weeks leading up to repairs. Reinforce these commands when workers are present. Your dog should have superb self-control skills on cue before dealing with chaos. A responsive pet is much simpler to manage around a busy work site.
Work on desensitization training as well using recordings of power tools and other loud repair sounds. Reward your dog for holding "stays" and "leaves it" despite the noise distractions. Obedience builds confidence in their ability to tune out and focus solely on you when needed most. Practice makes perfect.
Provide Background Noise Buffer
Having familiar background noises, like music or TV sounds, can help absorb some of the excessive racket from hammers, saws, and power tools. Find a volume level that masks sudden bangs and clangs, but isn't so loud your dog becomes overstimulated. Consider a competing noise like a loud fan pointed away from the work area.
Some dogs do better in earmuffs or a calming head wrap to muffle noise. Introduce any gear slowly in advance to avoid spooking your dog. Only utilize if your pet tolerates it well. The goal is to take the edge off the sharpest repair noises. Don't overwhelm your dog with other sounds on top of construction chaos.
Remain Calm and Patient Yourself
Dogs take emotional cues from their owners. If you tense up, yell, or act frustrated around repair crews, your dog will become more anxious themselves. Commit to remaining neutral and calm no matter what happens or how the process stresses you personally.
Be patient if your dog struggles in ways you didn't expect. Don't punish them, but go back to basics and build their confidence up more gradually through positive training methods. You may need professional guidance from a veterinary behaviorist if severe issues persist. Your dog isn't giving you a hard time purposefully – they are having a hard time.
Provide Anti-Anxiety Gear
Anxious dogs often benefit from wearing a snugly fitted compression garment like an Anxiety Wrap or Thundershirt. The gentle pressure has a calming effect. A caped body wrap is ideal for easily startling dogs.
Essential oil blends designed to reduce stress and pheromone collars can also assist without sedation side effects. Talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety gear that might make your dog more comfortable. Introduce any new product weeks in advance.
Stick to a Routine
Try to maintain your dog's regular schedule, walking, play times, mealtimes, etc. despite the chaos. Dogs relax more when their routine is stable. Prepare their meals in advance to avoid disrupting their schedule. Wake up, feed them, walk them, and put them to bed on time.
Avoid deviations like new pet sitters or dog walkers mid-project. Stick to familiar people and patterns. Consistency, predictability, and regularity are calming during turbulent times. Your dog will worry less if their needs are met on time. They will appreciate you keeping life in order.
Ask for Veterinary Help If Needed
Schedule a check-up before repairs to address any health issues that could worsen stress. Make sure your dog's medications, therapeutic diets, supplements, etc. are optimized. Discuss options like anxiety medications or pheromones if appropriate.
Let your veterinarian know the dates the work will be taking place and for how long. Report any worrying behavioral changes in your pet promptly so interventions can be made in a timely fashion. Your vet may have additional recommendations to help keep your dog comfortable and serene. Don't hesitate to utilize their expertise.
Consider Boarding Options
Some dogs become so distraught by home repairs that staying elsewhere is the wisest option. Make arrangements well in advance to board your dog at a kennel, pet sitter, or veterinary facility if intense anxiety or safety risks exist. Select somewhere familiar if possible.
While boarding, provide ample belongings with your dog's scent for comfort along with any customary food, toys, treats, bedding, and anxiety aids. Avoid overstimulating play with strange dogs. Request confinement away from high traffic areas. Pick up your dog as soon as the work is done to minimize separation stress.
Understand your dog's limits. Some pets simply cannot tolerate prolonged or very noisy repair work without trauma. Trying to force them to accept what stresses them to the breaking point will only worsen anxiety long-term. Discuss options with your veterinarian if safety is at stake.
While training, management, and desensitization should help most dogs adapt adequately, don't hesitate to change your plans if your pet's wellbeing seems at risk. Some conditions and temperaments simply don't mix well with construction upheaval. Adapt as needed to support your dog's welfare above all else.
Home repairs can be upsetting for canine companions, but proper preparation, training, and management will allow your dog to take it all in stride. Start desensitizing your pet to construction noise triggers weeks in advance using positive reinforcement. Provide a designated safe space for your dog to retreat when overwhelmed. Use calming supplements cautiously if extra support is needed. Stick to your dog's normal routine as much as possible. Above all, be patient, remain calm, and consult behavior professionals promptly if severe anxiety arises. With time and consistency, you and your dog can weather any home improvement project together.