These are strange times we’re living in. New phrases like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” have taken over our social lexicon. What we once took for granted, is now something we long for. Coffee with friends, group training classes, parties, graduation ceremonies and more, all put on hold while we stay at home to stop the spread of the novel COVID-19. In this new uncharted age of avoiding others and staying inside there’s the good, the bad and the potentially ugly for our best friends.
First, the good! Our loving family dogs are living their best lives right now with their people home and accessible 24/7. Evolved over time to be by our sides, this whole stay home together thing is certainly working for them, what’s not to love?! Cuddles, playtime, walks, and working from home are the things of dogs’ dreams. So, what could be bad? Getting a little too used to it, that could be bad for our dogs. At some point life will get back to normal and family members will go back to work and school and the fur kids will be left home alone, waiting for their return “like the old days.” What could get ugly is that your dog(s) may develop separation anxiety from the abrupt change in your family’s schedule. Separation anxiety can manifest itself by excessive barking, howling, whining, pacing and even chewing and destruction of household objects because they long to be with you above all else. When it comes to separation anxiety – we certainly don’t. want. that.
ROUTINE TO THE RESCUE! Fear not, you can help your dog cope with the normalcy to come by maintaining their sense of routine and alone-time now, even as you are being a good citizen and helping to flatten the curve. So what should you be doing right now? Maintain your dog’s normal routine. Stick to their familiar walking, feeding and playing schedule. Leave the house under the safe guidelines recommended without your dog now and then. Go for a drive without them for a couple of hours. Do all of the same things (cues you are about to leave like grabbing your lunch sack, keys, etc…) that you would normally do when you leave them for a work day. And then leave for a bit! Dogs learn by association and consequences. They pay GOBS of attention to what we are doing and what it means for them. It’s always a good idea to give your dog a special safe food puzzle (like a stuffed Kong or similar) as a sort of transitional object that they only have for home alone time. When you return home, pick that object up and carry on like normal.
We’ve got this friends! Our dogs don’t know there’s a pandemic going on and lucky for them they aren’t watching the news. So while you are prepping your household with toilet paper, canned goods and dog food…add one more task to your stay-at-home day and prepare your dog for their old routine. They will thank you for it.