Park Life has been working with dog owners in and around Honiton to raise
awareness that when we all go back to work our dogs may face their biggest challenge. Separation anxiety is the talk of all good dog trainers at the moment and they expect a rise in challenging behaviours when life changes yet again after lockdown is lifted. I have put together some great activities to help you and your dog ease back into normal life and stop your dog from missing you.
It’s fair to say that life has changed significantly for all of us. Our routine, moods and habits are different because of the coronacoaster of highs and lows from dealing with the coronadose of horrible news. Many of us have been downing the quarantini’s or sinking the furlough Merlots just to cope with it (*clears throat*). Whilst Fido is quietly watching and picking up your weird behaviours.
Even going outside is strange! everybody is avoiding you, your friends are not allowed to say hello and your owner is turning into an antisocial distancer having to deal with a sea of Wuhan-kers and covidiots.
Your dog maybe displaying some unusual habits themselves, have they become clingy? Won’t leave your side? Do they look a bit more anxious when you go out shopping? or are they hiding somewhere new in the house and looking really fed up?
People and dogs have been living together for over 20 000 years and we’ve naturally selected the best dogs who take notice of us because we want them to do a specific job. They are totally in tune with our life so when things change a dog can become very sensitive to that.
The main aim is to get your dog focused and happy to entertain themselves. By giving them activities they can do alone which gets their brain motivated. Having a really good routine will help too so they know what comes next, what they can expect and it will help to add in some distancing.
I can’t express enough how scatter feeding, routine, play time and basic training will monumentally help your dog. Dogs see in a scent scape so using that knowledge to really engage their brains can be the equivalent of giving your dog a crossword to do. At this time tiring your dog mentally will do wonders and can actually replace some of the physical exercise your dog might be missing from the restrictions.
Get you and your dog into a routine. Boredom is anxieties best friend so having focus on the day and something to aim towards will give your dog reassurance.
Download a weekly timetable and aim towards 5 activities for the day. You could include things like walk, scatter feed, playtime, kong or brain game, leave them alone time, house hunt scatter feed, basic training, brush time, throw the ball in the garden. You get the idea! Even if these activities are 10-15 minutes it will really help your dog to unwind, disconnect from you and challenge their mind on things they love.
Make sure your dog has enough rest. Dogs need 14-16 hours of rest a day. If your children aren’t allowing this to happen your dog may feel unsafe, tired and grumpy and this can be a recipe for disaster. Crates are a brilliant way for your dog to feel safe as you can place a blanket over the top. You should encourage your house hold not to disrupt the dog whilst they are in their bed. Make it a no go safe zone!
Include scatter feeding into a lot of your dogs routine, you can use their daily allowance of food and place it around the garden for them to find and search for. This is brilliant for your dogs mental health as it is a very natural way for them to eat and it has been proven through a study of dogs with anorexia that they are more likely to eat food that they have to find and search for than if it is in a boring old bowl.
Use kong, biscuit balls or even cardboard boxes/tubes for your dog to work at getting the food out. This will direct there attention away from you allowing you to spend more time away from them.
Check that your dog isn’t in any physical pain, long nails, sore teeth or joint pain can change your dogs behaviour so bare that in mind if things are going wrong. A top Scottish canine behaviourist told me that if a dog suddenly has a change of behaviour, 90% of the time it will be down to pain issues.
Spend at least 20 minutes a day playing your dogs favourite games. Having quality time together playing can help with your bond and this could help them feel a lot more settled knowing you give them lots of attention at certain times.
Start to leave your dog alone for short periods. This maybe difficult in some house holds but if you can, leave your dog inside whilst you’re all out in the garden. Watch a film with them in the other room. The kongs and brain games can really help at this time directing your dogs attention away from you. Build this up gradually and never force the issue if they are uncomfortable, this could just make things worse.
If you’re not sure how your dog is going to react when you go out buy a dog camera to check how they’re doing.
Hire a dog walker, having someone to take your dog away from you whether you’re at home or not will teach them not to be so reliant on you. A dog walker can prove to be a great back up when thing go wrong and a really good one will get them into good habits and teach them how to behave in an outdoor environment. You can also get them to pop in if you are worried at any time.
If your dog is having a really bad time with being left contact a canine behaviourist as soon as you can. Separation Anxiety can get really bad and is terribly frightening for a dog, not to mention your poor neighbour having to listen to the howls of despair!
If you need more help have a look at this conference call with some of the best dog trainers in the country, this starts on the 18th of May 2020 so get in quick.
or try Carrie Stuthridge’s How to socialise your puppy during a pandemic in 3 easy steps
or Sally Cousin’s The Lockdown Dog
Dont forget there are products on the market to help your dog ease into their new life as well like https://www.adaptil.com/uk to realise soothing smells to help relieve stress.
Dorwest have various products available too
Park Life Canine Wilderness Adventures are a perfect way to distract your dog . With our extra long Big Adventure in the morning we really focus the small group of dogs with activities to tire them mentally and with all the fresh air and walking we have been getting fantastic results from owners telling us their dog is settled all day, leaving them to do a short walk in the evening.
We have a middle of the day Lunchtime Adventure for the all day worker too. This is a high paced activities walk specially designed for gun and working dogs.
Our Friday Cute Club is for the little ens who want a more gentler activities walk without the big brutes bumping into them.
All adventures encourage the best behaviours and we happily guide our customers with video top tips so they get the same results as us. Here are all the benefits of our adventures:-
Fantastic canine socialisation being careful not to let your dog become dog obsessed.
Activities and games so your dog becomes more handler focussed.
Mental and physical exercise so your dog is more tired.
Top tip videos so you can learn how to do the things we do.
Premium Adventures for those that want more.
Wipe down so your dog comes home clean(ish).
Individual caging for safe transport.
Continuous canine information through blogs, emails and newsletters.
An environmental health and Surgeon approved Covid 19 prevention plan to stop the spread.
All 5* reviews and reference service.
Cuddles and bum scratches along the way (for the dogs that is!)