For a lot of us it will be coming on to 8 weeks that we have been in lockdown and I know that one of the suggestions I have found helpful as a coping mechanism is to adopt a new routine and stick to it. But what about our dogs, how are they coping? Here are some key things to remember to help our furry members of the family get through this difficult and different period that we are experiencing.
Walking & Exercise
Although many of us are restricted by the number of times we can go out at the moment try as far as possible to ensure that your dog has at least one walk a day. Walking your dog is not only good physical activity but it is also good mental enrichment especially when you allow your dog to smell and sniff trees, flowers, grass etc as that is how they get their information about the environment and what is going on. When your dog has had physical activity plus mental stimulation that wears them out and helps to promote a calm dog. If it is difficult for you to get out with your dog remember that a game of “Tug” or “Fetch” in the garden is good for getting some energy out of them plus you are giving them one on one time too!
Our dogs are very intelligent animals therefore to get the balance of their needs physical exercise is part of the equation the other being mental stimulation! There are plenty of ways that you can do this with your dog. Practice those training cues with them, teach them some Tricks! There are some great puzzle toys on the market. Nina Ottosson puzzles such as Doggie Tornado, Dog Brick, Hide and Slide are great fun for them. I use these with my dogs a few times a week. If you purchase a couple and rotate them around for about 30 mins that is great exercise for your dog’s brain.
Other enrichment toys include Kongs, Treat Balls, Snuffle Mats or a great “DIY” Muffin Tin Game! All you need is a muffin tin, 12 tennis balls (or as many sections the tin has) and dog treats! Place treats at the bottom of each segment where you would normally put the muffin casing and then put a tennis ball on top. Ask your dog for a “Sit” and a “Wait” before you place the tray down and then let them search for those treats! These are just a few that I use with my own dogs and they keep them entertained for quite some time!
Safe Place - What is this and why do they need it?
What we as dog owners need to remember is that this moment in time that we are all experiencing is tough and it is stressful for us humans, but it can also be a tough time for our dogs too. Dogs feed off our emotions and if we feel low, which is not without reason at this time, our dogs’ sense that emotion from us which in turn can make them feel tense and anxious. So watch out for that.
Also, in our “usual world” there are many dogs that are used to us being away from the home for a period of time during the day. During this time, they get used to space and having down time until we return home. But at the moment with the whole family at home and the house being much busier than it normally would be our dogs may not be getting the same amount of down time they are accustomed to and need. This can lead to them feeling anxious and stressed or over stimulated. Therefore, to avoid any unnecessary tensions or conflict create a “safe place” for your dog to go to during the course of the day where they can have time on their own.
This can be done by putting their crate or dog bed in a quiet area or room in the house. Plus remember if the dog is sleeping and toddlers or younger children are around be sure to teach them not to disturb the dog when it is asleep as this can cause the dog to jump and possibly lash out unintentionally simply because they have been startled. Setting up an area like this can benefit your dog immensely giving them the opportunity to have the down time they need. Additionally, if you throw in some classical or reggae music on top that will create an even better, relaxing and calming environment.
Lastly, the new guidelines from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends social distancing for dogs too. So, when out on walks keep to the 6 ft guidelines for your pets as well as you and don’t let your dog interact with other dogs and avoiding dog parks at this time is advisable.
Please continue to Stay Safe, Stay Positive and Stay Healthy ….
When my husband and I moved to California in February 2013 from Switzerland with our two West Highland Terriers, one of the first things that struck and impressed me when I used to walk our dogs in the neighborhood was just how many other dog owners that walked their dogs had rescued them from local shelters or abroad. I soon realized the huge drive and encouragement in the USA to rescue and was very impressed with that. Since working as a dog trainer here I have worked and trained many many rescue dogs both in a shelter and a dog training school, and now having my own business here in Massachusetts I continue to work with many clients who have adopted dogs from a shelter or abroad.
I have found that there can sometimes be a stigma or myth that dogs surrendered to shelters are there because they are “bad” dogs, that there must be something wrong with their temperament, or that they have challenging behavior. However, in a lot of cases this is simply not an accurate depiction of the events that led to their being sheltered. There are many other reasons why dogs are unfortunately surrendered which can include:
When you look at the list of reasons above it really emphasizes the point that the most important thing a person or family has to do when considering to get a dog is “do I/we have the time and ability for this”. Dogs are very different pets compared to cats. They require a lot more of your time, energy and attention on an on going basis. When considering whether to add one to your family remember this is a life long commitment as dogs can live for between 15 to 20 years.
4 Things to Consider Before Getting a Rescue Dog
1. Can you afford this?
Dogs will require annual vet visits, flea, tick and heart worm prevention treatments, teeth cleaning, and depending upon the breed you may have a dog that requires regular grooming. If you cannot come home during the course of the day to allow the dog to have a potty break, do you need to think about a dog walker or doggie daycare and obviously the latter two will be additional costs.
2. Do you have the time for a dog as an ongoing commitment?
Initially the dog you adopt will need some basic training - will you be able to commit to this? It may have behavioral problems. A lot of behavioral problems actually stem from lack of crucial socialization that a dog which may have been living on the streets etc will not have gotten. They may therefore have developed fears of, for example, other dogs, people, noises, various forms of transport, trucks, motor bikes etc. In which case will you be able to commit to a longer period of training to help the dog through its fears? All dogs, whether they are small dogs or big dogs need exercise which is important for their physical and mental wellbeing - will you keep up with this and not just put them in the back yard to run around?
3. What breed or mix of breeds should you get?
When adopting if there is a specific breed that you are attracted to there are many rescue groups that deal with specific breed types. But one thing that you must bear in mind when thinking of a particular breed or before you go to the shelter and fall in love with a dog that is that a mix of breeds such as a Border Collie and Springer Spaniel, or Doberman and Retriever, is to make sure that you do the research on the breed types that you like to ensure that you can cope with the energy levels of a particular breed or breeds. Unfortunately many dogs are surrendered because people end up with dogs that are jumping, barking or destructive simply because they are not giving the dog enough exercise and mental stimulation.
4. Puppy or Adult dog?
For families that are thinking about a puppy, who themselves require a lot of care and attention in the first few months, children that are 6 years old and above are better suited but should still be closely monitored around the puppy. Young pups have sharp milk teeth that can hurt when they nip children and sharp nails, and what you want to avoid is children’s’ excitement of getting a puppy turning into them fearing a puppy because of the nipping or scratching. So with young children an older dog might be better suited. Older dogs have a more established personality and don’t need to potty as often as a young puppy.
In essence, think very carefully when deciding to add to your family with a four legged friend. Ensure that the whole family is on board with the decision and that you make the right choice on the breed(s) that you choose.
Dogs can be such a rewarding member of the family, fun, playful, encourage you to take more exercise. You will meet new people when you get a dog therefore increasing your network of friends. In a nutshell they can be a huge joy once they are trained, they understand their boundaries, and they are cared for in the appropriate way.
Does your dog bark and lunge at other dogs?