On March 23rd 2020 life changed dramatically for all of us, including our dogs.
The arrival of Coronavirus to our shores has altered the way we live our lives and in turn the lives of our pet dogs.
The Government states:
Everyone must stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
You should only leave the house for 1 of 4 reasons:
- shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
- one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
- any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
- travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home
So what does this mean for our dogs daily walks – the following information was correct at the time of writing and is a direct quote from the government website
Advice if you have symptoms of coronavirus and must remain at home for 7 days, or 14 days as a household
If your dog cannot exercise at home, you should ask someone outside of your household to walk your dog for you.
All non-essential trips to the vets should be avoided. If your pet needs urgent treatment, you must phone the vet to arrange the best approach to meet your pets’ needs.
Advice if you do not have symptoms of coronavirus
You may leave your house to exercise once a day and you should combine this with walking your dog. In doing so, it is important that you minimise the time spent outside of the home and remain 2 metres away from anyone outside of your household.
All non-essential trips to the vets should be avoided. If your pet needs urgent treatment, you may take them, but must remember to wash your hands and remain 2 metres away from anyone outside your household. You must call the vet before going to see them.
Advice for those walking dogs on behalf of someone not able to
You may also leave your house to provide care or help a vulnerable person. This includes walking a dog for someone who is unable to leave their house because they are self isolating or being shielded. You should remember to wash your hands before and after handling the dog and keep 2 metres away from other people and animals, including when handing over the dog to the owner.
(The government ask you stay local to walk your dog and do not drive to places.)
How will this effect my dog
Changes in your dogs routine and exercise levels could effect his behaviour. Your dog may have excess energy and lack stimulation.
To help you dog you can add some activities to his day
- pick a new trick to teach him each week – these will be posted on our FB page
- start scentwork games with you dog – take a look
- introduce him to brain games – take a look at this book
- work on training/behaviour issues – a common one is barking out of the window (click here for downloadable handout)
How else will the ‘lockdown’ affect my dog
It is likely that your dog spends most of their day asleep in a quiet home. Now however, the children are off school, you are likely to be working from home as well as undertaking your new job of ‘teacher’ add to this the financial worries and anxiety Covid-19 brings – home life can be stressful.
Our dogs will pick up on the changes to our daily lives as well as all the stress, so we need to be aware of this and presume that our dogs will behave differently.
Our dogs are likely to be tired as they will not have quiet, uninterrupted sleep like they are used to – many pet dogs sleep 12-14 hours a day, puppies and our elderly dogs sleep more – up to 20 hours. Just like us, lack of sleep may make your dog less patient, make pain more prominent and unwanted behaviour may show.
If you are on edge and stressed your dogs are supersensitive to our emotions so again this is likely to rub off on our dogs.
All of this together with a huge deficit of sleep can cause massive behaviour implications with our pet dogs due to an overdose of brain chemicals (dopamine, cortisol, adrenalin) released due to excitement, stress, frustration, anxiety etc.
With this in mind it is important that the whole family are aware that the usual tolerant dog may not be quite so tolerant now – accidents stand on their paw and they may growl or snap. The dog may take themselves off to a quiet corner of the home or to their bed – it is important that you leave him alone and let him be. They may be off their food if they are super – sensitive.
Another potential issue to consider is how will your dog cope when normality returns? Trainers and behaviourists predict a massive rise in dogs with separation related disorders – this is common after seasonal holidays such as Christmas.
Imagine how empty their day will be when you all go back to school/work. Quiet and lonely – some dogs may show unwanted behaviours and find coping strategies for example, barking, chewing, defecation and in severe cases self mutilation.
To prevent this ensure you build in times when your dog is in a different room to you, prevent them following you around the house – maybe leave them in the house when you put the washing out, give them games and activities that keep them busy so they are not focused on your whereabouts.
Maintain your dog’s routine as much as possible – walk, feed times. Remember if there are 2 people in the home – you could take your daily exercise separately and walk your dog twice
Ensure they have a quiet, safe place to sleep. Preferably the same space their bed usually is. Do not allow people to encroach his safe space and ensure that access to his space is not blocked by people, bags, furniture
Stick to his diet
Don’t be tempted to feed him lots of human food titbits – buy/make suitable healthy treats if you want to treat him but do not overdo it!!!!
Maintain your Contact/play
Your dog gains a lot of comfort and reassurance from you. If you usually cuddle your dog and they like it – continue to make time to do this, it release Oxytocin, a great feel-good chemical for both of you. If you play with your dog, make time to do this – it forms part of their routine, remember, a routine is good!
Allow your dog to de-stress
Just as we would take a bath, read a book, watch TV, knit etc to unwind we need to ensure that our dogs can do this too. Sniffing, licking and chewing are our dogs equivalent. Make a little course of obstacles made up of items that you can scatter food on for them to find, spread paste on for them to lick, hide crunchy food for them to chew. Courses should last 10 – 20 mins (I often feed my dogs dinner this way). Snuffle mats, licky mats are great to add to the course.
THE GOLDEN RULE
Allow your dog to choose if he interacts with you or takes himself off to his bed. His bed/safe place is just that – no one bothers him there! If he is asleep, children must be told to leave him.
Shelley Heading – The Dog House Academy April 2020