Thoughts of a Dog Therapist – It’s Lockdown for us too…

The world had only just started to adjust and look for recovery options after lockdown when it was thrown into lockdown 2.0.

People don’t know if they’re coming or going with most working from home again where possible. Businesses are struggling to keep afloat and the economy as a whole is in turmoil. But what about our dogs? How are they coping?

Since June, when the world started trying to recover some normality, I have been called upon to work with so many dogs with issues caused by the first lockdown. People had taken on puppies or rescue dogs between March and June, thinking they’d have all the time in the world to train them before going back to work fully. Dogs that were already in loving homes suddenly found themselves able to follow their owners everywhere they went 24hours a day.
All of these dogs, new or existing, were hardly left alone for months and most of them enjoyed at least one daily walk because their owners weren’t travelling to work and found time to go out for their allowed hour of exercise.

Then suddenly people started to get back to a new normal. They were back at work however many hours a day and had to travel to get there and back again. Dogs suddenly went from constant companionship to being on their own all day. Walks became either a quick trot around the block when they got home or non existent until their owners days off.

People were getting home from work and finding their houses chewed or notes from the neighbours about constant barking. The behavioural issues they thought they would have all the time in the world to train them out of were still there, and dogs that were fine before lockdown suddenly weren’t fine about being left alone. I’ve also had a lot of interest in my training walks because it seems that the lack of puppy training or socialisation classes during lockdown, coupled with the social distance rules has meant that these new puppies or rescues don’t understand how to interact with other dogs and people. Some are overly excited and boisterous and others are aggressive. Dogs were confined to leads because of the social distancing so the recall wasn’t thought about and now as soon as they’re let off of the lead they’re running to everyone they see while their owners are standing wailing like a banshee for them to come back.

I’ll admit this has been great for business from my point of view, my partner jokes that I’m one of the few people who’s business has benefitted from the lockdown. But it’s not great for the owners, the dogs, all of the other people the behaviours effect; like the neighbours or the other dog walkers. But mostly it’s not great for the thousands of dogs across the country who have found themselves in rescue centres or new homes because their owners just didn’t have the finances to call in an expert or the time to commit to correcting the behaviours.

So what can we do this time around to help our dogs adjust a little bit better?

1) Keep their routines – if you feed or walk at certain times because of your working hours then don’t change it. Even if you get up, feed them and go back to bed, make sure your sticking to those times because you’ll be going back to them when this is over again.

2) Keep some distance between you and your dogs while you work from home – yes I know that studies show having a dog in the workplace makes it less stressful, and you love having your faithful companion at your feet while you work. But this isn’t going to help your dog when you’re suddenly working back in the office and they’re on their own again. Shut the office door while you work, or better still follow tip 1 and put them wherever they would normally go when you’re out at work for the day, keep the routine going.

3) If you hire someone to look after your dog then don’t cancel them – this sort of ties in with keeping the routine. Most walkers and daycares have managed to stay working through this lockdown so if you normally hire one for your dog then let your dog go with them. Trust me when I say your dog isn’t going to know that they could have spent that extra hour or day with you instead, and they’re not going to care. They’re going to go out and have a great time like they always do and will just be happy to see you there when they get back. It keeps their routine and also helps your walker or daycare to keep going. Let’s be honest you’re still earning your wages working from home but if you cancel them because you can do it yourself then that puts them out of work.

4) Use your walks to train your dog – During lockdowns we’re meant to keep our distance from people. I saw so many complaints on the local social media pages through lockdown 1.0 about people’s dog being off lead and running up to people, this then meant owners had to approach to get their dogs back. So it’s no wonder most dogs were confined to leads, but please invest in a long line and work on your dogs recall. Let them have the 5 or so meters lead length and keep ca liking them back and rewarding them, if they don’t come back you still have the end of the lead so can pull them back in and keep them close to you when needed. I promise this will make walks so much more pleasurable for you when this is over. Whatever you do don’t use and extending/flexi lead for this, you can’t pull the dog back to you when needed with one of these they rely on the dog heading back towards you to retract and if you put your hand on one of those cords and try to pull the dog back in then you’ll end up with a nasty burn.

5) Keep up with any training sessions/classes – as a canine therapist I am fortunate enough to be able to still do my behaviour consultations, and from what i’ve heard most trainers and behaviourists are still working. Group classes have had to stop but they’re still able to do 1-2-1 sessions outdoors, maintaining social distancing or are offering video consultations via platforms like zoom. Check with your trainer or behaviourist whether they are offering any services during lockdown and try to keep up with the training if you can.

Following these simple tips will help you and your dog to have a calmer and happier transition in and out of lockdown, regardless of how many times it happens. But we’re all in this together so if you are struggling then please do get in touch to see if there’s anything we can do to help

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