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As we start to see light at the end of the COVID -19 tunnel what does this mean for us as dog owners and more importantly our dogs?!
For over a year now we have been living with some form of restrictions placed on our lives, whether that is full lockdown or simply social distancing and certain businesses being shut.
During that time many of us have spent an unusual amount of time with our dogs compared to pre-COVID and for some they have got their new dog during the pandemic this is all they’ve ever known. So as we start to hear the plans for what lies ahead and how things may start to gradually return to normal we need to consider the impact of what this will do to our relationships with our dogs and on our dogs lives in general.
Spending more time outside the home
It’s inevitable that as the country starts to remerge from lockdown and businesses start to reopen we will all be stepping outside the home without our four legged companions more frequently. Whether that is making a much needed trip to the shops for some new clothes or visiting the hairdressers there are simply some places we can’t take our dogs with us.
For some there may even be the expectation to go back into a work environment on a full time or agile basis. So how do we help our dogs adjust to the fact that we will no longer be around 24/7 as they have become accustomed to?!
I think the thing to realise is that separation anxiety is real and that even if your dog never suffered with this before there is a real chance they may have developed this now.
Personally I would suggest starting with small experiments to see how your dog copes with the changes. Set up a camera and watch/record how your dog behaves when you nip out for 10 minutes and see if they exhibit any signs of distress. We have an expert article on the topic of separation anxiety for more information on this topic and also a dedicated podcast episode too.
My advice would just be to be vigilant, watch out for changes in your dog’s behaviour and gradually build up to longer periods that you feel the dog is comfortable with. If your dog starts to display any worrying behaviour seek professional advice.
Prepare to succeed!!
Although it might seem a long way off there will come a time when we get to travel again and as much as we love holidaying with our furry companions there may be those of you who want to venture abroad and are faced with the decision of what to do with your dog.
If your dog is new to the family and you’ve never left them before it’s worth thinking ahead on what your holiday arrangements are going to be. My ideal preference for example is always that my mum comes to stay at my house (familiar surroundings so less upheaval for Buddy) and then if for any reason she isn’t available I have a backup plan with a lady who does home boarding.
In our scenario, Buddy knows this person very well and has been in her care many times over the course of the last 5 years whether it has been while I’ve been out for the day or a long weekend etc. Again this is a familiar environment for him and he is comfortable there.
If you know you are hoping to get away more once lockdown ends or there is a chance you will be needing to leave your dog for longer periods of time during the days then why not start to find your ‘back up plan’ now and give your dog the chance to have some trial days in advance. The positive experience of going to day-care/ kennels and you picking them up at the end of the day will make it less traumatic when you do have to leave them for real for longer periods of time.
Think about things from your dog's perspective
As the country starts to come back to life places will naturally become busier and busier. Even as humans I think we are going to find it a shock to the system to be in enclosed spaces with a higher density of people so take a minute to think about things from your dog’s perspective.
"...know your dog and be alert to changes in their behaviour."
Over the last year, our dogs have experienced us socially distancing, not having visitors in the home environments, shorter journeys in cars and a whole host of other behaviours that historically we would have considered abnormal. Be mindful that your dog may find it hard to have close interaction with strangers and their dogs or people coming into their home. Again try and build up gradually to introducing additional stimulus in your dog’s life again to avoid them becoming overwhelmed.
I think the key thing for all of us as we head into life post lockdown is just to be aware and as we always say know your dog and be alert to changes in their behaviour. They can’t openly communicate with us so it’s up to us to watch out for their signals so we can avoid any long term negative impact of adjustments to their surrounding and lifestyles.
If you are worried your dog’s behaviour and the impact of changes in your dogs lives we would always advise you to seek specialist advice.