“It’s been 4 weeks and 6 days now and my family still haven’t left the house and my human brothers and sisters want to play with me aaaalllll the time! I love them but I’m getting very sleepy now, and they don’t know when to stop! I just want to curl up and sleep on my own for just 5 winks! I’ve been on 5 walks today and I can’t take anymore! Send help!”Dogs in Lockdown
On the surface it may seem that our fur babies are loving all of the attention they’re getting from us… but this time can be very difficult for some of them and unfortunately, they aren’t always that great at letting us know. They’re very clever animals but the confusion of change and overwhelm can be enough to leave a dog unaware of how to deal with such a situation.
So let’s take a moment to think about the changes that are happening for our dogs in these uncertain times:
- No more fun off-lead walks anymore unless their recall is spot on! – Our dogs are none the wiser and don’t understand why they are no longer allowed to wander free like they usually are.
- No more interactions with other dogs – and maybe a ‘No Fido’ and a jerk of the lead when he tries to pull towards that other dog.
- Their owners are home ALL DAY EVERY DAY – But sometimes only the other side of the door (because they’re having to work from home). – So humans are home but the dog is not able to interact.
- No more routine – He used to know that you were leaving for work when you finished your breakfast and picked up your car keys but now his days are unpredictable and confusing.
- There’s more cleaning (air fresheners and all!), furniture being moved around, new weird objects being delivered to the front door, and more cleaning products (“yuk!”)
- The kids are running around the house like crazy people and tugging on the dogs ears, and maybe even jumping on the dog.
- There are new voices of people who cannot be seen and explored by your dog (conference calls or House Party video calls with friends)
This is a lot for any dog to deal with but for those who have never experienced these things before, it will be even more confusing for them.
Everything is different now! And whilst it isn’t permanent… right now, it is our reality. And it’s strange. It’s stressful and challenging for us AND for them!
So what can we do to minimise these changes for them?
- Maintain routine – Keeping change to a minimum means trying to keep as much routine as possible with walks, meal times, wake up times as well as the dog’s alone time.
- Engaging with our dogs on walks and making it interesting for them – This will give them something exciting to focus on instead of the dog over the other side of the playing field!
- Kindness – Always be kind to your dog! But especially right now. Comfort him and listen to what he needs from you.
- Don’t forget them – If you have to work from home, you obviously need to not be distracted by your dog, however remember that he’s not used to you being shut in a room which is so close but he just can’t get to you! Get up and get a glass of water with a quick cuddle or treat to show him that you haven’t forgotten him and that everything is fine.
- But don’t smother them either – You don’t want to smother them with kisses and cuddles all day every day for the duration of this lockdown as this is going to be an even harder transition when things go back to ‘normal’.
- Make sure that (especially young children) are always supervised when they’re with your dog to ensure that they’re being equally respectful to each others space. Kids and dogs are very similar in many ways and can unintentionally overstep the mark when it comes to social, polite boundaries that adults can understand. Jumping and pulling on your poor dog is not fair and shouldn’t be encouraged.
- Give Your dog a place he can rest UNINTERUPTED – This may be an open crate, a bed or a separate room that he can come and go as he pleases but we must all respect his need for alone time and don’t interrupt him when he has taken himself off for a nap. He’s doing it because he needs it, so let him!
This will all help to prevent your dog from showing signs of separation anxiety when lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Just think how confusing that might be for them.
Separation anxiety is a real problem for so many dogs and some dogs were suffering with this way before lockdown began. A study showed that around 80% of dogs suffer from it to some extent.
Some dogs may never have experienced it but the problem with separation anxiety is so real for many dogs and an extremely depressing and scary life for a dog to live.
Separation anxiety symptoms can be anything from whining when owners leave, depression, barking, howling, destruction of the home, defecating in the home and even self-mutilation.
Now, you may be thinking ‘well my dog doesn’t suffer from this so we’ll be fine’. But there is a worry right now of what this lockdown is going to mean for our dogs when life goes back to ‘normal’.
It is very possible that any dog can suffer from separation anxiety after this and that is why it is extremely important for us to maintain some level of routine and normalcy with our dogs through this to make it as easy as possible when we all have to go back to work.
A few things that you can do to try and prevent this:
- Don’t overload them with fuss and cuddles – yes, spending all day with our furry best friends may feel like a dream come true especially if you usually have to work all day usually and don’t normally get that time with them… We know that most dogs LOVE fuss but try not to shower them in cuddles because this is going to make it harder for them to adjust back to real life and suddenly not getting all of that fuss will be very hard for them
- Don’t be ‘soft’ when it comes to usual boundaries – If you normally never allow your dog to sit on the sofa with you or come upstairs… This is NOT the time to start! Seeing those puppy dog eyes every day, when you’re sat on the sofa working from home will be the hardest thing to resist but you MUST! I’m not saying to everybody that you can’t allow your dog on the sofa, but if this is normally a ‘no-go’ for YOU, those boundaries should continue. After all, when you go back to work and they see the opportunity to get up on the sofa because ‘mummy or daddy let me when they were home for all that time’, this could lead down a slippery slope; reversing any boundaries and rules you used to have with your pooch.
- Gradually leave your dog alone for periods of time – depending on if your dog has suffered from separation anxiety before or not, will depend on how gentle this process has to be but either way, leaving the house to sit in the garden shed or car for 10 minutes a few times a day is going to build up their confidence with you leaving the home and them being home by themselves. (This is something you should practice regardless of whether your dog has shown signs of separation anxiety before or not).
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety already you will likely have a programme or routine that you follow to try and alleviate this problem. So try to stick to this during lockdown as this time will be particular significant for your dogs.
Just remember, we mustn’t forget the changes that are happening for our dogs right now and although this may not seem too difficult on them at the moment, we could see the long-term negative effects on their physical and mental health once lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Be Kind and listen to what they need from you.