Melissa Kolmar, CPDT-KA, SBA
Our pets have been adjusting to us being home more since the pandemic started (and some may be loving it!). We are a long way off from normalcy, but what can we do to help our pets to adjust when we start leaving the house more? Individual dogs may vary in their reactions, but change in general is very challenging for most pets. A dramatic shift in routine could cause stress and in some cases, fear and anxiety. Here are a few strategies you can start right now to ease back into “normal”.
- Be patient with your pet.
Change is hard for everyone and your pet is no exception. As we have learned to look at our world and interactions differently, it is important to look at our pets differently as well. Instead of getting frustrated, ask yourself why your pet may exhibiting a certain behavior. If we address the root cause of the behavior, then we can find success.
- Start working back toward your normal routine.
We don’t want to go straight from home-all-day to gone for eight hours. Starting now, leave your pets alone for part of the day. This could be in another room away from you or in the house while you go for a walk or a drive. If you plan on crating them when you are at work, have them in the crate for this separation. If you plan on having them in a certain room when you are gone, they should be in that room while you are away.
- Keep a routine of physical exercise.
You may have been walking/playing outside more than normal. That’s great! However, start thinking of what your routine will be like once you go back to work. Will it go from four walks a day to one? Start weaning the walks down instead of abruptly cutting them off. You can do this by make the additional walks a little shorter until you start dropping them off one-by-one. It is important for your dog to continue to get physical exercise so find a routine that will work for your life.
- Introduce mental enrichment.
If you are not already doing it, mental enrichment is key to a happy and tired dog! There are lots of ways to mentally enrich your dog, but the key take-aways is that mental enrichment should be novel and species-specific.
- Work on basic manners using positive reinforcement training.
Having a strong foundation of manners can do wonders for a dog. Some basics that are helpful are: coming when called, leave it, auto-attention to handler, stay/wait, touch, active coping, recognition of their name and loose leash walking.
| Melissa is the Assistant Training Manager at Clearwater-based New Dawn Animal Behavior, which uses positive, rewards-based training. Melissa’s goal is to help people better understand their dogs and learn how to communicate and collaborate with them. For more information, visit NewDawnABC.com