Does your pet have a place in your home that is dedicated entirely to them? Even the most calm, relaxed canine companion deserves to have a dog safe space.
A dog safe space is a separate, blocked-off area – it can be a crate or even an entire room – where your dog can escape when they need a break or comfort. While these spaces vary from family to family, dog owners should always be intentional about providing this retreat for their animal. Here’s why safe spaces are important for dogs and the five essentials for designing this area in your home.
Why a Dog Safe Space Is Important
There are a number of reasons why creating this environment is important for your dog’s mental health:
- Seeking small, cozy spaces is an instinct for your dog
- Even a normally chill pet can get stressed out
- Having a safe space can be useful in an emergency
Den Behavior Is Instinctive for Dogs
Dogs are descended from wild canines, and dogs in the wild seek small, dark spaces called “dens” where they can be protected from predators and stay warm. These dens are often dug into the ground and the animals use them for sleeping, safety, and even birthing their young.
Your domesticated dog still has these denning instincts. This is why Fido might try to hide behind the couch or burrow under the covers during a thunderstorm. With a dog safe space, your pet can embrace this instinct more easily and feel more protected, even if the threats they perceive aren’t real.
Dogs Experience Stress and Anxiety
Even if your dog is normally chill, there are various stress triggers that can be difficult for all canines. Noise from fireworks and weather, strange pets and people, or even separation from you can cause your dog to feel anxious. If they have a safe space in your home where they can seek comfort, they can handle these stress triggers more effectively and therefore avoid destructive behaviors like chewing or aggression.
You want to give your dog all the tools they need to be happy and content. A dog safe space is one of those tools, much like a regular CBD routine, an exercise schedule, and a healthy diet.
A Dog Safe Space Can Provide Additional Protection for Your Pet
Many dog owners will train their pet to go to the safe space on command. This can be especially helpful in case of accidents when you want your pet to remove themselves from a room or situation. For example, if someone breaks a glass in the kitchen, you can command your pet to go to their safe space so they don’t cut their paws.
Having this special spot for your dog to retreat provides an additional level of protection for your pet within the home, especially if you teach them to go there at your command. You could include a verbal cue like “Home” or “Space” when you are teaching other basic commands to your dog, and they should learn it quite easily.
The Five Essentials for Your Dog’s Safe Space
Now that you understand why your dog needs a safe space, it’s time to create one in your home. The size, location, and specifics of your dog’s area will depend on your pet’s individual needs and the layout of your home, but all dog safe spaces need to have the following essential features:
- Easily accessible
- Available water
- Size appropriate for your dog
- Your pet’s comfort items
Your Dog’s Safe Space Should Always Be Open to Them
For this space to serve its purpose for your pet and allow them to retreat from stressful situations for comfort, it needs to be constantly accessible. Your dog should always have a clear entry to this space and it shouldn’t be super challenging for them to get to it.
For example, if you have a senior dog, their safe space should be on the floor of the home where they spend the most time. You wouldn’t want them to forgo their comfortable environment simply because they didn’t want to climb the stairs. If your dog’s safe space is in the mudroom, avoid blocking the entry with bags or shoes that they will have to navigate around. Entry to the safe space should be clean, easy, and simple.
The Space Should Be Private but Not Isolated
Dog safe spaces should give your pet control over their level of interaction. The space should be arranged so that, if your dog wants, they can avoid other pets and people. Some dogs will even learn to shut their own crate door to signal that they want to spend some time alone.
If you’re in a multi-pet household, each dog should have their own spot. It might be tempting to set up a small room as the dog safe space that your pets share, but there will be times when dogs from the same family want a break from each other, too. If at all possible, each dog in your family should have their own special comfort corner.
It’s important that your dog never feels like the safe space is punishment, so it shouldn’t feel isolating. Dogs are inherently social creatures, so putting them in a room and shutting the door will rarely make them comfortable and happy, even if they have all their favorite toys and bedding. The key to a successful dog safe space is letting your pet set their own boundaries about how much interaction they want.
Your Dog Shouldn’t Have to Leave Their Space for a Drink
Dogs have significant hydration needs and water should always be readily available for them. If they have to leave their safe space to get a drink, then it probably won’t feel very safe. The idea is that this personal environment can meet all of your dog’s needs and support them feeling calm and collected. Providing a water source is crucial to this comfort.
The availability of water is also a safety measure, especially if you live in a place with hot weather where your dog might be at risk of overheating. A dog's safe space should always be temperature-controlled to maintain your pet’s comfort, but providing water will also help them regulate their body temperature and stay safe in the summer months.
Your Dog Should Be Able to Stretch Out Comfortably
A large dog will need a large safe space. Your dog needs to be able to relax in this area, and if they can’t lie down or stretch out, they will feel restricted and uncomfortable.
Putting your dog in a crate or closet that is too small for them may heighten their anxiety rather than soothing it. Ensure that the space you provide for your pet has plenty of room for them to lie down, stand up, and stretch out.
Protect Your Dog from Noise Stress in Their Space
While dog owners will have varying levels of ability to limit sounds in their home, it’s important that your dog’s safe space is as quiet as possible. Noises can be very triggering for your dog’s sensitive ears, so limit invasive and loud sounds as much as you can.
Providing bedding and soft toys in the safe space will help absorb some sound. Some dog owners also choose to provide a sound machine in their pet’s space, as white noise can drown out other, more triggering noises. Sometimes a sound machine can also help with dogs who have separation issues, because they can’t hear the silence of the house that tells them when their owner is away.
A Space Will Only Feel Safe If Your Pet Has Their Comfort Items
Your dog probably has a few favorite things in your home: a cozy blanket, a special pillow or dog bed, maybe even a few beloved chew toys. These items should live in their safe space.
Including your dog’s favorite items will indicate to them that this space is comfortable and safe. Even just the familiar scent of your dog’s bed or favorite squeaky toy will make them feel relaxed and at home in their safe space.
A Dog Safe Space Only Works If Your Pet Understands It
Your dog will need to be introduced to the safe space in order for it to be functional. You’ll use many crate training techniques to get your dog familiar with their space, even if that space is not a crate. Feeding your dog in their special environment can help them feel safe there and create positive associations with it. As long as the area has the five essentials for a dog safe space, your pet is likely to love their comfy, cozy spot.