Helping your dog cope with change during Covid lockdown
However well your dog may have managed with your ‘old’ routine of you going off to work, things have changed a lot recently.
Dogs are social animals, and you being at home is both a massive change, and a blessing for them. You may be working or entertaining children, so not actively interacting with them as much but just being there is great for them.
With the restrictions on walking, there are many ways to entertain your dog and keep their mind busy. Using their brain wears them out, so hide treats around the house for them to find, or be creative in how you feed their meals. Saving your recycling boxes and paper is key, so using loo roll innards to fill with food, bend over the ends and hide for the dog, or place in a big box full of paper so they have to root around and use their powerful nose to find the source. Putting their meal in an empty egg box is another trick. Make use of the snuffle mats, Kongs and Toppls you have – freeze their meals in advance so it is harder to access the meal. Or scatter treats/dinner biscuits on a towel, roll it up, or loosely tie in a knot encourages problem solving. With all these, start of easy and build up the level of difficulty by burying the food deeper, offering several rolled up towels bundled together or any other (safe) creative set up you can think of. Lastly, you can just throw their dinner across your lawn – hours of fun for your dogs!
Another way to entertain your dog’s brain is to revisit your training. Start with the basic exercises of eye contact, and build up to wait/stay, lead walking indoors, practice getting a swift response to your recall cue, and learn new tricks.
As your dog has got used to you being at home all the time, now is the time to start preparing for the day you will be leaving to go to work. Even the best dog that didn’t have much of a problem before will be more susceptible to finding the transition difficult. Separation anxiety is a phobia, and one that is tricky to recover from. Set your dog up for success and practice ‘leaving’ and having ‘alone time’ now. Going through your leaving routine and stop your dog from following you room to room can help. Hide with a book in another room, or leave via your front door but hide around the side of your house (only if it is safe to do so and keep your distance from others). If you are not sure how your dog will cope, set up an ipad/phone recording your dog, and watch on another device (a great free app called Alfred is handy if you don’t have a webcam). Make sure you return BEFORE your dog shows any signs of distress – nose licking, pacing or vocalising.
Doing these exercises will help your dog cope when you do go back to work.
Finally, as you cannot attend a groomer’s, make sure you brush your dog often. Even short coated breeds benefit from a brush to remove dead hair, and for curly/long coated dogs, it’s important to keep on top of the maintenance of the coat to avoid mats and tangles. At the same time, check your dog all over for ticks – this warm weather brings them out in earnest.
Keep your dog safe by removing access to dangerous foods and items, and keep yourself safe during this time.
Pippin Pets are still open during this time and offering video calling for 121 help, as well as online courses for obedience and soon to be released scentwork – get in touch for details!
Classes will be resumed in the near future.