So, you got a lockdown Puppy…
Author: Liza Arnold: Lizi’s Pawsitive K9’s & Furever Friends Pets
Many of us have bought or adopted puppies and dogs within the last year, and many of us have also been at home with those puppies and dogs for the majority of last year and those dogs have been expected to fit in to a somewhat abnormal family routine and lifestyle, because of Covid. But now our dogs’ are in for a drastic change, as lockdown lifts and things start to hopefully go back to normal our quarantined pooches who have adapted to a life with their owner and family by their side 24/7 are about to have their worlds flipped upside down. They don’t have a clue about what is about to happen, with you going to work, the kids going back to school and the house suddenly being very empty. This doesn’t just refer to new lockdown puppies or dogs, your dog of 5 years might also have some issues dealing with the changes in routine, but knowing my 3, they’ll just be happy to have their spot back on the sofa!
It’s time to start thinking, if you haven’t already, about how your dog is going to cope with the changes in its routine. They don’t know any different than having you around them and being in the house with you. Now that the kids have gone back to school there is already one less human (or humans) to sit around and play with, then throw in your return to work and being out for much longer than a supermarket trip – your dog is going to feel totally out of balance. They’ve been staying at home with you for practically everyday of the last year. New dogs and puppies, who haven't known any different, could experience a bit of separation anxiety and that is something you need to be very mindful of.
So, what can do to make the experience easier for them…
If you haven’t started doing this already, your dog needs to become accustomed to you leaving the house for longer periods of the day. A puppy definitely will not be able to cope with a whole day of being left alone, never mind the toilet breaks required throughout the day. Even for a few seconds or minutes, start your routine of leaving the house but making sure your puppy has something to do. But also, when you come into the house, making sure you reward calm behaviour; ask for a sit and reward, rather than them jumping all over you because you left them and now you’ve returned. Ask for a preferred behaviour. Check out canine enrichment’s pages on Facebook, there’s so much you can give your dog to do to keep them entertained. But also bear in mind that puppies especially need up to 18-20 hours sleep a day to process, rest and chill.
Dog walkers or dog visits to be let out in the garden are a great way of making sure your pup gets a visit throughout the day. Be it just 20 minutes of play and toileting, or if an older dog then a solo or small group walk, depending on what your dog can cope with. Finding a dog walker who truly understands your dog and the need for positive reinforcement can be tricky but there are so many great ones nowadays. Do your research, ask for recommendations. Don’t allow your pup to go on an hour walk with 5 other big dogs. Dog walkers should be adapting walks to the age of the dog and also their behaviour within a group. I prefer mine to go on solo walks because that’s what they’re used to and quite frankly, I’d prefer that the dog walker was keeping a watchful eye on my dogs, not the 6 that they have in that hour. Make sure they have insurance, and check out qualifications too. The more they understand about dogs the better, not just someone who’s decided it’s an easy job and easy money. It’s really not, you’re out in all weathers, probably clearing up poo half the day, covered in mud and chasing after a dog who hasn’t done recall training, but the owner said they were great at it.
Doggy Day-care in my opinion isn’t great for socialisation of younger pups. Socialisation isn’t just about meeting dogs, it’s about meeting the outside world and becoming accustomed to what goes on and being shown that it’s not scary. Like I said, younger dogs especially need a lot of rest, and quite often doggy day care isn’t the best place for rest because there’s so much going on. So yes, your dog might be exhausted at the end of the day and you get a lovely peaceful night but actually, it’s because they haven’t rested throughout the day because there isn’t much chance to. Also, quite often the dogs aren’t matched very well, so you could end up with someone’s dog who’s reactive to certain breeds, like my Fyn and any brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs, frenchies etc because he can’t communicate with them like they would most others. Be very careful to make sure that they are also licensed as well, including anyone that does home boarding. They have to advertise this on their websites and social media, and you are well within your rights to ask if they are licensed, as if they’re not, their insurance is null and void, thus putting your dog at risk.
You need to put the work in now and research and plan for when we do eventually hit some sort of normal life and routines. There are so many dogs being given up to rescue because owners don’t have a plan in place and the dog starts showing signs of stress, boredom, anxiety, separation anxiety etc, but actually it’s because their world has been turned upside down very rapidly. You need to allow them time to adjust, time to reassure them that you will be coming home and time for them to settle into a completely different routine. You might be lucky in that a family member is able to do a couple of toilet breaks a day, or have a few friends that want to help, but make sure the dog is used to them popping in and out and also follows your way of thinking when it comes to handling, rewards etc. Make sure you meet any dog walkers too, get your pup used to going out with them.
It’s not just a case of a dog being okay with a new routine, you have to be prepared to put the work in. And the sooner the better to help them adjust to it. If your dog starts showing any signs of anxiety, stress, separation anxiety, then get help from a qualified and force free behaviourist or trainer. If you catch the issue now, then things will be better in the long run!