Social Distancing For Dog Owners; What To Expect.
We’re all in the same situation with needing to do social distancing. Our schedules are completely different, we’re working from home, the kids are home. It’s almost like summer break but it’s really not. We often don’t think about our dogs having schedules, but they do. Think about what your dog does all day when you’re gone. Do they get mental stimulation by watching out the window until you get back, barking at anyone who may be passing? Or are they like my own dog who uses the whole day for beauty rest, it works she’s stunning! I first started seeing all the cute memes about our dogs being so happy that we’re home all day with them. We like to think they are happy in this change but we forget that we are messing up their schedules. We will see some changes in their behavior. If we’ve worked together before you know that I talk a lot about burning mental and physical stimulation. How will we fit everything into the day? How are you going to work from home, teach the kids and tire the dog out so it’s not destructive or following you everywhere? First think about your own dog or dogs. Each one is different and may need a different approach. What is your dog’s normal schedule?
Next, what is the stress level in the house? Again, if we’ve worked together you know I’ve discussed that they read our body language. You can attempt to remain as calm as possible but your dog knows you’re stressed, and now they are stressed and have no idea why. If the human is nervous there must be something to be nervous about. We need to take some extra time to comfort our dogs. Not just for the well being of our dogs but for ourselves. Pets have been proven to help lower our heart rate and blood pressure. If we calm the dogs we help calm ourselves and vice versa.
So, what should you expect? Dogs have hormones that become unbalanced during times of change. This is normally seen with new adoptions, new puppies, moving or vacations. We will be seeing the same thing during this change. It takes these hormones about three days to readjust before you typically see changes in behavior. Lets take my dog as an example. Kaylee enjoys sleeping all day. Now that we’re home and spending a lot of time on her dog bed (the couch) she isn’t getting the sleep she usually gets. We normally have one day off on the weekend so a day or two doesn’t disrupt her life that much. Now that we’re home everyday I can see the changes. Day three, the day the hormones readjust, she’s cranky. She has gone without proper rest and is starting to go after the cats. She needs a nap, badly. This isn’t the behavior we’re used to seeing. This is what her new personality is going to look like if changes are not made. We will need to brush up on training to tire her out and remind her how to co-exist with the cats. That night she slept 12 hours, I actually decided to not wake her up, I knew she needed the sleep. Day four, she’s the same even with all the sleep she got last night. Cranky, going after the cats, snorting and shaking off. She’s stressed and taking it out on the cats, the only ones she can control. I’d imagine a lot of dogs and owners are going to run into a similar issue. I expect to get phone calls from clients about their ill mannered dogs around the fourth day of social distancing.
How do we change our lives during this time to ease the stress for ourselves and our pets? Structure. We need to schedule our lives differently. We need to plan out the day for everyone. How much time does your dog walk each day? 30 minutes? An hour? None? No matter what the answer is, it’s not going to be enough with the schedule change. If you’re not walking your dog at all then you need to start. Start off slow, only 15 minutes or so and slowly build your dog’s exercise routine. This is for us too, we can’t stay in the house all day and not be active. Work up to an hour walk if you can. I recommend trying to start a normal routine of going for a walk with the family and dog(s) every morning. Make sure to pick a safe location. We're still seeing a lot of people at parks, just because you're outside doesn't mean you're safe from the virus. Walk around your neighborhood if it's not active. If you still have the potential to come into contact with people in your neighborhood then stay in your yard. We've been doing laps around the house, sounds boring but it keeps us all active. Walking will help create a tired dog. I’m sure you’ve heard that a tired dog is a happy owner. If your dog knows how to properly walk they are burning mental and physical stimulation at the same time. If they pull on a leash or don’t pay attention to the handler they are only burning physical energy, you will need to work their brain more to tire them out. If your dog is used to a proper walk like we teach everyone then you will also need to work their brain more. They have learned to work harder, now they need a bigger workload to tire out mentally. So in short, all dogs need to walk and all dogs need extra mental stimulation.
How do we work their brain?
Training! If you’ve worked with us you should look back at your training plan. Are there commands you haven’t worked on in a while that your dog could use a brush up on? Is your dog starting to show old behaviors such as our dog? What did we say would need to be done to work on the problem behavior? Start with these. Make sure to start from the ground up, as if you’ve never taught it before. You aren’t going to take the same amount of time to teach it, just give a refresher course to remind them that they know this. Make sure to keep sessions short. I recommend doing three sessions a day for about five to ten minutes.
Have you not worked with us and are seeing behavior problems since being in quarantine? Feel free to call us. We are taking new clients during this time. We are in the process of setting up video chatting to be able to do consults and training remotely. Of course there will be things we can’t handle until we can help you in person but every behavior problem has basic training that needs to be perfected before being able to transition it over to everyday use. You have the time to train, get a head start now. We’re going to be posting ideas to help during this time. Follow us on Facebook for training ideas as well as fun games!