BHV Director of Training
Last week, we took a look at some tips to deal with a coronavirus puppy – that cute, new addition to your family. This week, we’re going to look at some effects this unprecedented time is having on any of our dogs – not just puppies.
We’re already getting a flood of calls about the biggest issue stemming from all this quality time we’ve spent with our pups – separation anxiety! While we’re far from being back to a pre-pandemic normal, some parts of life have returned to a new normal, and will hopefully get better and better.
“My dog has started to chew on the doorframe when we leave!”
“Yesterday, our neighbors said she whined and barked for hours!”
It’s not a question of whether or not dogs will experience separation anxiety when people leave their homes again, but rather, how severe will it be? Separation anxiety is a common behavior in the best of times and now that many people have been sheltering at home for months, it may become the MOST common behavior.
And that’s not the only behavior trainers are expecting to see an increase in both frequency and intensity.
“My quarantine puppy, we named him COVID, is getting aggressive. We haven’t been able to have guests over for months and, well, we do like to entertain. But at our first annual Social Distance BBQ, COVID growled at all the guests! Doesn’t he know we like our friends?!?”
Never force your dog to get closer to something that makes them fearful. Instead, use treats and other good things to give your dog a positive association with the new experience.
Have guests give your dog treats when they come inside your home. Play firework sounds on the TV or computer while your dog is enjoying their favorite treat. Allow your dog to play with other dogs off-leash in a controlled environment where they feel comfortable. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting your dog enjoy the interesting smells at a park to keep them happy and excited.
If your dog was used to socializing in the past, but they haven’t been going to the usual places or experiencing the usual things as frequently as they used to, they may also need a little help to ensure the reintroduction goes well.
For dogs that are nervous and anxious, gradually reintroduce them to the experience. Walk them around the outside of the daycare facility a few times before their first day back. Gently play with your dog’s paws and brush their fur regularly to get them ready for an overdue grooming appointment.
For dogs that are overly-excited or frustrated from a lack of normal exercise, try to get some of that energy out BEFORE throwing them back into daycare or bringing them to the park. It may seem counter-intuitive, after all, you’re paying for daycare to get the energy out in the first place, but dogs that are over-stimulated can exhibit unwanted behaviors causing problems and injury in a social environment. Take your dog on a nice walk before bringing them to daycare. Practice training off to the side for 10 minutes when you first get to the park.
Our number one priority is the well-being of your dog. We would love nothing more than to help reduce your dog’s fear and anxiety or calm their over-excitement and ensure their transition back to normal goes as effortlessly as possible. Which, of course, will help us achieve our number two priority. Making sure that in these difficult times, your dog can continue to be a happy source of unconditional love and empathy, something we all so desperately need.
Michael Litzky is a Certified Professional Canine Behavior and Training Master Instructor (CPCBTMI), a Certified Behavior and Aggression Management Trainer, and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed® (CPDT-KA®). He also is a certified AKC® Canine Good Citizen® Evaluator.
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