Despite all the challenges over the last year-and-a-half, one of the greatest silver linings throughout the pandemic has been the opportunity to spend more time with our beloved furry friends. Whether you’ve adopted a pandemic puppy or have been working from home throughout the lockdowns with your current dog by your side, your pup is going to need to adjust to what their days will look like once you return to the office. Jennifer Gailis, a professional dog trainer at Bravo Fido, Montreal’s leading reward-based dog training centre, shares her tips on how to prepare your fur baby for your post-pandemic routine.
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Make those first impressions count
Your dog’s home life isn’t the only thing that’s going to change once you go back to work. As your community opens up after lockdown, it’s essential to introduce your pup to new places and experiences gradually. “Any dog that is older than 16 weeks is already past their key socialization period, so it’s important to take things slow for your dog,” Gailis says.
After all, many pandemic puppies (who just might have one of these popular pet names) are experiencing different situations for the first time, such as seeing large crowds of people on their regular evening walk through the park. Keep in mind that scenarios like hitting up dog-friendly patios or going to visit a friend’s home with your dog are all new adventures for your pup.
“A dog’s first impressions count,” Gailis explains. “Praising your dog and giving them treats in new and possibly stressful situations can create a much more positive and happy experience for most dogs.”
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Start prepping them sooner rather than later
The best way you can prepare for your dog’s new post-pandemic routine is to start practicing as soon as you know what your new work schedule might look like — but just make sure any changes happen slowly. “Any large sudden unpleasant change can cause stress and anxiety. So we want to take things as gradually as possible,” Gailis says. “In terms of actual separation-related issues happening, it’s always based on the dog’s behaviour.”
Take the time to find out the amount of time your fur baby is comfortable with being left home alone and adjust your training accordingly, she suggests. “If a dog is already having difficulty being left alone for 20 minutes, that’s already too much for them.”
To help you figure out an ideal timeframe that your dog is comfortable being left alone, try using a webcam or your laptop’s camera to see how they react once you leave. Watch your dog and observe their behaviour. If your pup cries for a little while and then settles right down and has a little snack and then sleeps or plays, that’s not a problem. But if they are restless and are whining or crying the whole time, that’s a sign your dog needs more support.
In this case, you’d need to backtrack and stay under the point where they start getting distraught. “It’s all about going slowly and making sure your dog feels safe,” Gailis adds.
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Consider your dog’s regular routine
For many dogs, being home alone for extended periods of time is more than just about missing their best friends. “If they’re going to be alone more frequently, that means they might be getting a little less exercise and fewer enrichment and activities,” Gailis says. “Think about how you can compensate for that as well.”
Adding canine enrichment games to your dog’s day, like stuffed Kongs or pet puzzles, or dedicating some time to teaching them new tricks, that can help add some extra stimulation to their routine.
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Pinpoint all of your pup’s fears
If you notice that your pandemic pup is scared of being home alone, try to narrow down what exactly might be frightening to the,. Although your four-legged friend might be experiencing some separation anxiety, there are also many other factors to consider.
Is your dog crying because they’re not comfortable in their crate? Are they more stressed if they’re left home alone during a thunderstorm? Do they chew on furniture if they aren’t given their morning walk before being left alone? Sometimes pet owners will find that small changes, like letting your dog roam free instead of being put in a crate, or giving them longer walks before work, can significantly help reduce their stress levels.
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Know when to ask for additional help
If your dog displays signs of severe fear or aggression when being left home alone, then it’s essential to get a professional dog trainer involved.
Symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs includes excessive destruction of property, barking and howling or increased panting, drooling or pacing. Taking the time to start expanding your dog’s post-pandemic social circle for extra help, such as hiring dog walkers or introducing them to friends that might act as pet-sitters, can be highly beneficial to the health and overall happiness of your pup.
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