Right now a lot of us are at home because of Covid-19 and our dogs love it! Their humans are around all the time, walking more, playing more and our pups are almost never alone. For many humans our pets are a much needed distraction and comfort now more than ever.There is a downfall to this. Our dogs are becoming more dependent on us. As I write this my dog Roho, is nudging my arm making it hard to type. I, like many of you, have noticed that she is clingier. If I leave the house without her she has a meltdown which is not normal behavior for her.
I have had many emails and calls from clients stating that their dogs have become insecure, want constant attention and can no longer stand to be alone. The fact is that at some point in the (hopefully) near future, we will all resume our normal schedules and our dogs will be at home without us. We as owners need to help them return to being independent and confident.
Here are some things you can do now to help your canine companion later:
- Practice Social Distancing from your dog – Send your pup to their crate with a chew or favourite toy. Do this several times a day for varying amounts of time. i.e. 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 5 minutes, 1 hour etc. Just like when they were crate training, ignore the whining and barking. When crate time is over, open the crate and walk away. Do not make a fuss or engage for a minute or two.
- Go out alone – Using the routine you would do before going to work, get ready to go and head out the door. It doesn’t matter where you go, grocery shopping, get the mail, walk around the block. As above, vary the time you are gone. The more unpredictable you are, the more comfortable your pup will be with being alone.
- Got to your mat and wait – Send your dog to their mat or bed and have them lie down and wait. If they do not know this command it is easy enough to teach.
- Step One – Place a treat on a mat or bed. Point at the mat and say “Go to your mat”. When your dog puts their paws on the mat mark the behavior with YES. Repeat until they are going to the mat consistently.
- Step Two – Send your dog to the mat, say Sit or Down and reward with a treat from your hand. Repeat several times.
- Step Three – Make the command on sentence – Go to your mat and down. Mark with YES. Again, repeat until your pup is consistently following through on the command.
- Step Four – Go to your mat, down and wait. Practice this by initially staying close to your dog, gradually increasing the distance between you and the mat. Encourage your dog with “Good Wait” repeatedly.Release them with “All Done”. Vary the time they are in a wait on their mat or bed. Once they are good at it send them to their mat while you are cooking, eating, watching TV, working. Ideally, move the mat away from you and your family, initially across the room then move them to another room.