Preparing your dog for life after lockdown
It’s official – we’re on our way out of lockdown at last. And you need to make sure your dog is ready. After all, they’ve gotten used to their ‘new normal’ and the change in routine as lockdown is lifted could be troubling for them.
From managing their separation anxiety to visiting the vets, we’ve covered everything you need to help your dog adapt to their new routine.
With lots of dog owners working from home or furloughed, dogs across the UK have been happily enjoying high levels of ‘humans being at home’. But when we return to work, our dogs are going to need to get used to spending time without us again. Even dogs who previously managed well away from their owners will need considerate training to help them adapt.
For everything, you need to know about separation anxiety, including tips for easing your dog into spending time alone, read our complete guide to separation anxiety.
It’s so important for our pups to receive great socialisation, but that’s been tricky in lockdown. Even dogs who were adults going into lockdown might now be unsure about normal interactions, such as people visiting the house, meeting other dogs or even learning to relax in busy environments.
If you need to get back up to speed with their socialisation, it’s best to do so gradually, in environments that you can control. Expose them to new experiences with plenty of positivity, energy, and rewards for calm behaviour.
Don’t forget, if you’re really struggling, it’s always best to work with a local dog trainer who uses positive methods tailored to your dog.
Visits to the vets
You’ve probably noticed that your routine trips to the vet have been a little different during lockdown, thanks to social distancing measures and reduced capacity.
And whilst the lifting of restriction will eventually allow vets to return to normal, many younger dogs will have missed out on vital socialisation at their vets.
To ensure that your dog is comfortable at the surgery most vets are more than happy to let you and your dog come in for general socialisation – you can even pop them on the scales whilst you’re there. Just make sure you call ahead to ask first, and abide to any social distancing rules they have in place.
Visit to the groomers
Lots of people have been unable to access grooming services during lockdown, so it’s safe to assume that your groomer will be swamped with dogs who need their questionable DIY cuts tidied up.
For your dog, the groomers can be an intimidating place, especially if they’re not used to going, or if it’s their first time. Your groomer will be more than happy to talk through your options for making sure your dog doesn’t find the experience too stressful, such as by using positive reinforcement or short ‘getting to know you’ appointments.
Visits to doggy day care
Many doggy day care centres have been able to maintain their services throughout lockdown thanks to good social distancing. The main risk has always been drop off and pick up, which need to be managed so that staff and customers don’t need to come into contact with one another.
If your dog is visiting doggy day care for the first time (for example, if they are a puppy or were adopted during the lockdown) you will need to help them get used to the environment. Talk this over with your daycare providers – they will let you know the best course of action to take and be able to allay your concerns.
Changes to dog walking arrangements
If working arrangements mean your pup will now be regularly walked by someone else, there’s a bit of prep work you can do to ensure they are comfortable and well behaved.
First you’ll want to work on on-lead manners. Make sure they don’t pull, lunge or react to other dogs, people or traffic when on the lead – this will make life much easier for the person walking your dog and ensure they are happy to do so again.
If your dog will be let off lead, you need to make sure their recall is solid, even with other people. A good tip is to use a whistle to recall your dog rather than having your dog react to your voice.
Getting your dog used to people wearing masks
Face masks are still required in lots of public areas and may well remain commonplace even after the threat of Coronavirus is gone, but for your dog they present a particular hazard. Studies have shown that dogs are able to read our facial expressions and respond – with a mask in the way this becomes much more difficult for them, and potentially concerning.
If you notice your dog displaying unusual behaviour around people wearing masks (such as by shying away, being aggressive or defensive) then you need to make sure they get proper socialisation. Follow the steps below to start socialising them to masks.
- First, cover your nose and mouth with your hand, and give your dog a treat. Repeat this a few times to ensure your dog is comfortable. Talk to them with your mouth and nose covered, offering them treats as you go.
- Next, show them the face mask before you put it on your face. Let them sniff it and get a good look at it.
- Put the face mask on and reward their calm behaviour with treats and affection. Go about your daily chores with the mask on so that they get used to you wearing it.
- Take them out on the lead to an area they are already familiar with but where they are likely to encounter people in masks, such as a town centre or high street. Have them calmly sit whilst people in masks walk by, rewarding calm behaviour. If they are stressed, remove them from the situation for a time and then return, gradually building up to the point where they don’t react at all.
Maintain a high-quality exercise routine
Whilst you’ve been on lockdown, you may have been using the time to get out an exercise more with your pup – and that’s great! However, once you’re back to work, it’s easy for that new exercise regime to slip.
Instead of throwing those good habits away, try and maintain the increase in exercise as much as possible, for you and your pooch. You can easily measure how much they are getting with a PitPat dog activity monitor, from just £39.
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