COVID 19 lockdown may have been a struggle for us humans, but for our furry friends - life has been a four-month doggy paradise. Cuddles on tap, company all day long, kids to play with and many a walk in the park as owners around the country slowly lost their battle with cabin fever. However, with many people returning to work, it's crucial to ease our pets gently back into their old routines to avoid putting them under unnecessary stress. After four months of intense companionship, a sudden change can come as a shock to your pet, causing anxiety and distress. In this week’s blog, we discuss tips on supporting your dog, post lockdown.
From a house-full to home-alone
Dogs are pack animals by nature, so naturally social. Being alone isn't in their genetic make-up, so it's normal for them to feel anxious when they're left on their own, especially if they've become used to you being home 24/7 during the lockdown period.
In the lead up to your return to work, try and encourage your dog to be relaxed when you're home, but busy and unable to play or give undivided attention. Try to emulate the interaction time that would naturally happen if you worked 9-5 at the office - so, for example, at breakfast, and in the evenings after dinner.
Cultivate self-reliance and independence
It's normal for your dog to want to be with you at all times; It's pack instinct. However, teaching your dog to minimise this is helpful in the lead up to your absence. By doing this, your pet will learn to be more self-reliant and resilient to alone time.
Try and encourage your dog to spend a little time alone while you're around. Discouraging your pet from following you around is advisable - although tricky! Avoid telling them off when they follow you, as this will cause confusion and anxiety; instead, try to make yourself as dull as possible!
By avoiding eye contact and attention when they follow you; you'll seem suddenly rather a bore in the eyes of your pet. No talking, no petting and no peeking! This technique may seem unkind, but it's a subtle way of promoting independence, which will lead to a happier and more relaxed dog. Remember to reward good behaviour and ignore the undesired.
Encourage alone-time in bed
To further help the process and aid in supporting your dog, post lockdown, ensure your pet has its own comfy space, away from the main bustle of the house. Using chew toys, bones or food-releasing toys; encourage them to spend time in their bed when you are busy around the house or watching TV and unable to give them your attention. Promote alone time in bed as fun, as this will aid them in coping when you're back at work.
Begin to leave the house without your pet to help your dog gradually get used to this part of their routine again. Start with small periods and build it up slowly so not to shock your pooch. If you want to take it to the next level - pretend you're going to work and dress in your workwear!
This technique may mean sitting in your car to read a book or taking an extended shopping trip to the supermarket - but in the long-run, it should help ease your dog back into his old routines. However, if your dog exhibits extreme anxiety and distress when left alone, seek the support of a qualified and reputable canine behaviourist.