Updated: Apr 21, 2020
While we may be in need of fresh food (or TP) and are climbing the walls wanting to get out to socialize with friends/family and get back to our routines....Our dogs are LOVING quarantine! They get to have their people home 24/7. (And if you are participating in the 25 Day Challenge and are playing fun games each day with your Pup everyone is benefitting.) But what happens after we all go back to work in a few weeks and suddenly our dogs are left alone again all day. Even dogs who have never shown signs of separation concern before may have an adjustment period. So what precautions can we take to make our dogs less likely to find themselves pining for the good old days when they had you all to themselves? Here are some ideas that can help while we are isolated:
1. Make sure your dog has some time every day where they are left alone. This can be in a crate if you have crate trained your dog; in a room by themselves; or the yard. They need time to be alone to remind them it is ok. If your dog has problems being left alone start with short spells and add duration slowly.
2. Give your dog a chew, stuffed Kong, or puzzle feeder toy to work on quietly while they are left alone. (Even if you are just in the next room.) Dogs who have severe separation concerns may not eat while you are gone. But chewing is a stress reliever. So get your dog used to having a chew when alone before being alone becomes a problem.
3. Do not make this a time to spoil your dog! Avoid over-indulging with treats, toys and attention while you are at home 24/7. Given a choice our dogs would choose to play with us a lot...but it is important that they do not get too dependent on us for their entertainment all day. You may have to ignore their adorable pleas to come play anytime they request it (ie: paw tap, ball dropped in your lap, big eyes staring up at you, a cute little woof to remind you that there is someone who wants attention.)
4. Make any departures you do make less stressful. If your dog gets nervous when they see you grab your wallet or keys do not make a big deal about it...do not acknowledge or scold. Dogs are great at watching for pre-departure cues about our leaving. You may even need to mix up your routine so they cannot predict that you are leaving.
5. Relaxed re-entry: When you arrive home and your dog is soooooo excited to see you, that over arousal may actually indicate anxiety. If they are overly thrilled you are home it is best to ignore until your dog calms a bit, then greet them calmly.
6. DO PLAY WITH YOUR DOG! Your dog needs both physical and mental stimulation. Right now is a great time to play concept games that build confidence and optimism while engaging their brain. Also, teaching your dog skill games like Find it or Scentwork encourage your dog to go move away from you to seek out something that gives them a reward. If you need ideas or resources contact me.
Our furry best friends may be the best medicine we have right now. They help bring down our stress levels, give us a friend to hang with and vent to, and add purpose to our lives. Let's be sure we do not leave them feeling they have suddenly been left out of the fun once our lives go back to whatever the new normal is.