A guide to prepping your pup for returning to “normal” life.
As we start to see light at the end of what felt like a never-ending tunnel, we can’t help but feel sad for our beloved four-legged friends who have been just as affected by the pandemic as we all have.
Leaving many families housebound 24 hours of the day - home-schooling becoming the ‘new norm’ and office commutes a thing of the past - dogs everywhere have quickly become used to having us around all of the time, with a brand new routine that left for little-to-no separation. And for lockdown puppies who know no different, the coming change in routine will be a whole new experience for them.
The Kennel Club recently reported a 168% increase in people searching ‘puppies for sale’ on the Welfare Organisations 'Find a Puppy' tool, from the beginning of lockdown last year.
But it’s not just the dynamics inside the house that have changed. Many dog owners have become terrified to even walk their dogs outside due to the huge increase in dog thefts happening all over the world. The BBC reported this lockdown year to be ‘the worst ever for dog thefts’ with the RSPCA commenting that the figures were ‘really concerning’ and The Dogs Trust calling this period of time a ‘dog welfare crisis’.
It's obvious there are some serious problems happening right now, with enough stats circulating from trusted resources to upset every dog lover in the world. So without this becoming the gloomiest blog post you have read (and not wanting to take away from the severity of the issues), we are keen to talk about the small things we as pet owners can start to do now, for our own dogs at home, in preparation for the later parts of this year.
Those long morning cuddles and mid-afternoon play sessions will no doubt be switching back out and there will be a need for them to be comfortable spending time on their own while the world begins to reopen and your life returns to normal (or, let’s face it, as close to normal as possible!).
While everyone gears towards their plans for a post-covid landscape, we’ve put together a little guide to help prepare your pup for when things change once more. It may not be set in stone, but we’re optimistic, and becoming mindful of what our new routines might look like sooner rather than later will only help build your dogs’ confidence and prepare them for what’s to come.
- Get an idea of what hours you will be expected to work and where. If your sector is re-opening its doors, this could drastically affect how much time you will be at home with your furry friends and you may need to consider what you will do with your pup when you are not there.
- Start teaching your pup that it’s ok to spend time on their own. Even if you’re still in the house 24/7, you can begin to give your dog space to relax by themselves while you’re doing the housework or taking your own time to chill in the bath. Our dogs benefit from having time to themselves as much as we do, so creating that separation while you’re both at home will give them the chance to learn that this is ok.
- Once you know they’ve found their favourite spot where they feel comfortable and safe, start leaving them there for short bursts of time, heading out for a 10-minute walk around the block or popping to the corner shop. Do this every day until you both feel ready to build up the minutes, remembering that no dog should be left for longer than 4hours at a time (or 6, if you have more than one dog).
- For the more anxious pups who have loved having you by their side every minute of the day, this could result in some unwanted habits that will need consideration (such as lots of crying or destroying things in your absence). Monitor their moods and look out for behaviours from those keen to show their distaste at being left. Work with your dog to reassure them that having time to themselves is a good thing, not pushing them past their limit if they’re not ready. Some dogs might take a little longer to adjust to how things were before (or have never been, for most lockdown puppies) so it’s important to work with them on this so you can settle any anxious minds early on and ease them out of troublesome behaviours.
- Consider getting a dog walker, or calling on family and friends to help out if you need a little extra time away. Or maybe give your boss a (gentle) nudge and see if you can take your pup to work - who doesn’t love having a dog run around the office.
Let’s not forget, this will be daunting for us humans too - heading out without our furry sidekicks for the first time in almost 2 years. If you are concerned, consider getting a camera so you can check-in and see how they are doing when you’re not there. Whether it’s basic or super savvy really doesn’t matter, as long as you can see them and reassure your peace of mind. Whatever you do though, don’t rush back at the first cry - give them a chance to settle first and if you do head back, return once they are relaxed so they learn to associate that feeling with your return. Their smiling, happy faces will fill you with joy each time you come home and soon, we’ll be back to wondering what we were all so worried about.
Oh, and don’t be surprised (or upset) if they relish in the regained peace and quiet either! Some dogs just prefer their own space, so will be glad for their normal routines to return. But they love us just the same!