It is safe to say that 2020 has thrown us a significant curve ball with Covid-19. While restrictions begin to ease and life gradually returns to normal, we are preparing to return to our offices, jobs, hobbies and social activities. One thing that may have fallen by the wayside in all our preparations, is our beloved canine companions, who may now be accustomed to spending a significant amount of time with us every day.
How do we prepare them for the “new, new normal”? Whilst your dog may have been relaxed prior to COVID-19 the change of having you home all the time has become their daily normal now, this is again going to change with you leaving regularly each day. This transition can be an especially confusing time for our dogs.
This is why at Found By The Hound, we place emphasis on developing confident dogs who cope well when left alone. We encourage “alone time” with our pets. Even when we are home, we allow our dogs some time alone to help them understand there will be times when they will be alone whether we are present or not. Whilst we could never have anticipated a global pandemic that would see society in lockdown, we do know that during life there will be times when our dogs will have plenty of access to us and times when they will need to be separated from us (work, holidays, illness and travel etc.).
If you are an avid reader of our blogs or a client of Found By The Hound, you will already know the importance of providing your dog with alone time, even if you’re home with them. BUT, if you missed the memo and have spent every waking moment with your pooch during lockdown, you will need to begin preparing your dog for a different routine NOW to avoid stress, confusion and potentially separation anxiety.
Our top tips:
1. Start implementing alone time NOW, even when you are at home.
If your dog has been by your side day in and day out for the last 3-4 months, the sudden shift to 6+ hours away from the house may cause some distress for your pet. Begin implementing alone time, even if you are still remaining at home most of the time. This means having your dog away from you where he/she cannot see you. You could have your dog away in a crate, outside or in another room for short periods of time.
During this time, your dog should not be able to physically access you (such as coming back through the doggie door) and should not be able to see you (e.g. through the glass doors or windows). They need to learn to settle and relax on their own. The end goal being that alone time is not stressful. Provide opportunities for your dog to rest and relax without your presence or interruption. This will help build healthy levels of independence in your dog.
2. Avoid Routines where possible
Dogs love routines. This is great as long as nothing ever changes in your dog’s life over their 15+ years. Although this may sound lovely it is often unrealistic. To avoid unnecessary stress in your dog it is ideal if you can avoid routines where possible and teach your dog to be adaptable.
If you feed your dog every day at 5pm, this will mean you dog will come to expect food at 5pm. (no, dogs can’t read a clock but they do have an idea of the time of day things normally occur) Ideally you need to change up your patterns when possible. Some days take your dog for a walk in the morning before work, other days walk them in the afternoon/evening as you would if you came home from work. Some mornings feed your dog early, other days later.
Initially the changes in routine may cause some stress, these small levels of controlled stress will assist you dog in coping when changes do occur to their daily routine.
When changing routines all the time keep in mind that some day soon you may be returning to work and it will limit your available times to be able to do things, however remember the more flexible your dog is the easier changes in routine will be accepted.
Dogs naturally are the most adaptable creatures on the planet. No other species has adapted to the same level that dogs have over the last few thousand years. It is important to ensure we keep this natural talent and use it to our best advantage. Our lives are forever changing over the years and keeping our dog’s flexible to our changes is important.
3. Keep departures and arrivals uneventful
As sad as we may be to leave our trusted sidekick behind when the time comes to return to normal, as much as we would love to , it is important that we do not lavish them in attention before we leave the house or when we arrive back home.
It is important for our dog’s ability to cope on their own, that our departures and arrivals are as insignificant as possible. If we do not fuss, they will be less likely to pick up on cues that in turn may make them fret or become over excited.
If you are behaving normally around your dog and you all of a sudden starting fussing, cooing and making a scene just as you walked out of the door, you just made your departure extremely significant to your dog. Every time you leave the house pretend you are just going out to your mail box to collect the mail. You wouldn’t fuss for 10 minutes just to walk to the letter box and return inside. Every time you leave the house act as though you are checking your mail, some days that may take 30 seconds other days that may take 6 hours.
The same can be said for your return to the home. If you have been out for a period of time and upon return start getting super excited and rewarding your dog for crazy excitable greetings this will only build up in your dog that your absence is very significant.
Stay cool, calm, and collected. Be the calm base for your dog to feed off.
4. Train when your dog is most active!
In the wild, dogs will hunt in the early hours of the morning, rest all day to conserve and replenish their energy and hunt in the early evening.
While our domestic dogs do not need to hunt, that has not changed the fact they are in fact still predators and they still tend to snooze all day to reserve energy. Whilst they no longer need to hunt for survival, they will often save their stored energy for ……….us!
We recommend utilising this time, when your dog is most alert and mentally prepared to learn, to focus on some training. Often owners only focus on physical exercise, which may result in building up your dog’s physical stamina and thus requiring more and more exercise to tire them out, when mental exercise is just as important.
By making our dogs think, concentrate, problem solve and trouble shoot during training sessions, our dogs are happy to relax in between active times as they are mentally tired enough to rest. Include mental exercises along with your daily walk or play and your dog will be very happy.
If you feel that your dog is going to experience problems when you return to work, please feel free to contact our expert trainers for help.