Are the kids home all day and is your dog their best bud, their go-to playmate? For some dogs, having their people home all day long is a dream come true! But if you are noticing at week 3 that your dog is less happy-go-lucky, maybe a bit jumpier, barkier, generally a little less easygoing, you may benefit from making a few simple changes to this new normal.
If your routine has changed, so has your dog's. Most households leave their dog alone for periods of time during the day. It may be for several hours, or perhaps just to run to the grocery store or post office for a few minutes. Maybe one person is home most of the day, but that is what our dog is accustomed to. If a family of four is now home all day, the dog is likely much more involved in everyone's activities. He is resting less, or at the very least, resting less deeply (maybe he lays down, but is very aware of who is where and what snack they are fixing!). This impacts his behavior over time! You know how you have a bad night's sleep and the littlest thing your spouse does causes you to speak a little harshly towards them? Sleep begets restoration and lack of sleep does not! My husband always tells our dog he's a lazy guy, sleeping the day away, but in actuality, dogs require more sleep per day than humans! So when our new schedule is interrupting our dog's normal nap times, it can cause them to not feel so great about their interactions with us!
So what to do? We can't just tell Coronavirus to go away so we can go back to the office and restore our dog's normal naptime (but wouldn't that be nice?!). But we can change a couple of things that will have a big impact on our dog's rest.
- Implement a nap time! If you have kids, choose a dog nap time, where you let the dog rest undisturbed. If your dog has FOMO (fear of missing out!), maybe a separate room, a crate or resting with just one person is the best choice. I know for my dog, all I have to do is sit on the couch and hold up a blanket and within seconds, Harvey will have curled up waiting to be covered up for a nap. If I'm in the kitchen however, in and out of the fridge, that nap will NOT happen! Strategically plan your dog-naptime so that it won't be interrupted by your dog's greatest joys - food, the kids playing outside, the neighborhood dogs being walked by, etc.
- Give your dog opportunities to be by himself - watch him - does he go to a room no one is in? Calmly praise him (unless that will interrupt him!) and let him be. Remind your kids and spouse that he is resting.
- Have meaningful training time to mentally stimulate your dog - pick a fun trick and work in short sessions to teach it to your dog. The key is that it needs to be fun for both of you! If your dog is stressed by our training or frustrated, we need to make it simpler and easier for him. We have some fun blog posts coming for simple enrichment ideas to work into your lives, so make sure you check back for those!
- Playtime - play is vital to a dog's well-being. Spend some time each day playing with your dog, if they want to play fetch, play fetch; if they want to play tug, play a bit of tug; if they want to play another game, maybe try hide 'n seek! Wait til your dog isn't watching then hide in a simple spot and whistle or call your dog - then throw a party when he finds you! Gradually make your hiding spot more challenging. You can take the game outside in a fenced area or have multiple people hide! Remember, don't scare your dog when he finds you!
- Take note of signs of stress - if you notice your dog doesn't seem himself, do not hesitate to contact a professional for help. We would love to work with you via video or phone consult to improve you and your dog's quarantine life.
Thanks for reading! Up next - scary masked people and how to make your dog more comfortable with them!