The scene I create as I write this dog post is one that many people have become familiar with over the past couple of months. There are three cosy dogs curled up next to me in my office nook while I sit at the computer typing away dressed in my daggiest but comfiest Winter gear. Whilst I often have to head out during the day, my four-legged friends have been enjoying constant company every day since late March, as one of our household members is always home. This has of course lead to an endless supply of walks, treats, and belly scratches (for the dogs, that is), and as a result, the hounds have never been happier.
This is a common theme! Many of our clients and friends have mentioned how much their families have loved the opportunity to spend more quality time with their canine companions because they are working and schooling from home. Animal shelters have reported a big increase in adoptions as people now have more time to commit to a new family member. It seems that whilst we humans have been socially restricted and distanced for much of 2020, dogs (and other creatures) have enjoyed more human interaction than ever.
There is one concern about this arrangement as restrictions begin to ease, and that is how our pampered pets will cope when life returns to normal (or at least semi-normal for the meantime). As workplaces welcome staff back on site and kids head back to school, it's reasonable to think that our dogs might feel a bit deserted. The sudden change of being alone for 8+ hours a day after a few months of having company 24/7 can cause dogs to become bored, sad, lonely, "barky" and destructive. Fortunately there are many things pet parents can do to minimise the impact for their dogs to ease them back into their old routine.
FOUR SIMPLE STEPS TO EASE YOUR DOG INTO BACK TO WORK / SCHOOL
Step 1. Give your K9 some space, and make it FUN!
Teaching your dog the joys of alone time while you're still around will help them to adjust when you really do go out. If your dog is used to spending all of their time with someone at home, gradually start creating space for them. By giving your puzzle toys, long-lasting treats and daily meals in another room, they will learn to associate the positive feelings they get out of those activities with the experience of being by themselves.
Step 2. Start your school / work routine now
If your dog would normally have breakfast and a walk at 7am, and a visit to the park at 5pm, start working back towards this schedule so it becomes a habit before you return to work. Walking and feeding your dog at the times you would during your usual routine will provide consistency for your dog and minimise the shock of your absence when work starts up again.
Step 3. Practise with some trial outings, and build up to a full day
To help your dog adjust to being separated from you, add in a few short breaks to your day where you physically leave the house. Start with mini errands and build up to bigger trips so your dog can become accustomed to the time apart and understand that you'll always come back. Don't make a fuss when you leave - as we like to say, "dogs are all about hellos, not goodbyes". It is far more reassuring for your dog to receive your attention when they are relaxed, as this rewards and encourages them for being at ease.
Step 4: Organise friends for your dog
One of the best ways you can teach your dog to feel happier in their own company is to give them something fun to look forward to throughout the day. Many of our clients say their four-legged friends become much more relaxed after their sessions with us, and in lots of cases they also experience less barking and destruction. By giving dogs the exercise, mental stimulation, and companionship they need, we create the opportunity for them to feel satisfied and calm. Pet parents have also told us it makes them feel better too, as they can leave home without feeling guilty, and they feel much less pressured to squeeze walks in when they are busy (especially during the cold and dark days of Winter). If you feel your dog could benefit from some extra love and company through the day, get in touch. We have options for dogs and families of all kinds and we love to help!
The wrap up...!
Many of us are looking forward to returning to our pre-lockdown routines as social distancing restrictions are lifted. This may present a challenging time for our canine companions, but a few simple adjustments can make it fun, positive and pain-free experience for everyone.
All the best - and in the meantime, if you're interested in seeing more of what we get up to, come and like our Facebook page where we share the joy of dogs with our community by posting dog pics and vids, dog memes, and generally entertaining dog stuff!