My aim in writing this is to help. Safety is key. I started this several days ago – I think I could keep adding to it, changing it, etc but thought it best to get something out. This is my opinion today.
The situation and people’s understanding of it is changing all the time. The definition of “essential” changes. Although we are all in a similar position, we all have different circumstances. Do what you think best for you at the time whilst following the most recent guidelines.
Make the most of every situation – for example, is it appropriate for your dog to be in the car when you go to the shops?
If something isn’t right for you, don’t do it.
Watch for what you can do and when, these restrictions will end at some time.
It is difficult to advise – situation and recommendations change all the time.
There is much conflicting advice, some from unqualified people.
Follow current advice from a reputable source, such as gov.uk, NHS or WHO websites.
More information is added and updated all the time.
- The RSPCA has issued guidelines. org.uk/coronavirus
You will also find information pages on “puppy socialisation” and “caring for your pets at this time”. I am sure the other pet charities have similar information.
- gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-people-with-animals is helpful
- The Kennel Club also have useful information on their website.
There are three areas we must think of:
- Keep our dogs mentally and physically exercised
This affects all dogs, but especially the young adults, active breeds, those used to a varied lifestyle.
This will include
- Walks – be inventive, get the most from your time outside
- Short, fun training sessions
- Brain games
- Safe things to chew
- Puzzle feeders / scatter feeding / food toys – all dogs have to eat, make sure that they get the most entertainment value from it
- Agility type exercises. Dogs of under one year (or 18 months with larger or vulnerable breeds) should not jump, but can still go under things, through things, round things etc.
- Reduce the effects of lack of socialising
Again, this affects all dogs, but especially the puppies, young dogs, those who are inclined to be timid or reactive
Expose them to as many different situations as you can. Socialise as much as is right for you.
Don’t scare them, ensure they have a good experience – gradual if necessary. This will include sights, sounds, smells as well as traffic.
Inside the house and garden, get your dog used to novel things.
Eg Wear sunglasses, big hats, fluorescent jackets, move differently
Google “Dogs Trust Sounds Scary”. You can download different noises to help your dog to stay accustomed to unusual sounds. There is also an instruction booklet. You can also download “Sounds Soothing” and “Sounds Sociable”.
As soon as the crisis is ended and we are allowed to mix, ensure that your dog has as many good social experiences as possible.
- Avoid problems in the future
Again, affects all dogs, especially those who are young and those you have not owned for long
Aim for quality time with your dog but also to have time without your dog
Ensure dogs have time on their own. When this is over, we want dogs who can cope when alone. A few times a day, ensure you are in a different part of the house to your dog, preferably with doors shut. When you are with your dog, sometimes have the door shut so that they get used to doors being shut and not always being allowed free access everywhere.
Have short training sessions, make sure your dog learns good manners and is rewarded for good behaviour.
Keep working with your dog – if you are working on a behaviour modification programme, apply it as best you can.
If you were attending my classes, read the handouts and follow the exercises where appropriate.
Read books, watch videos, apply them.
Don’t smother your dog, let them make choices. Let them choose to be away from you. Ensure they get the opportunity to rest. Being with our loved ones 24 hours a day can be lovely but can also be a little difficult. The same can be true of our dogs.
Give your dog choices in other things for example water bowls in different places, a couple of sleeping areas etc
Although letting your dog watch through a window and spend time in the garden are good for them, don’t allow your dogs to bark in the garden or through the window at noises / people / dogs. This habit is likely to worsen during this period of isolation and means that dogs are likely to become more reactive now and when they start to mix again after this time.
At all times, reward good.
Whatever your dog does which is good and you would like them to repeat, whether it is doing as you ask or simply being settled and calm, give them something good. A reward is anything they would like at the time. Catch them in the act of being good. Do not take good behaviour for granted.
Ignore some unwanted behaviours.
Sometimes ignoring unwanted behaviours is the best way to reduce them.
Interrupt behaviours which cannot be ignored. Many unwanted behaviours cannot be ignored. In these cases, interrupt by moving your dog away, you moving away, moving the object etc.
Make sure your dog doesn’t get into the habit of barking when they become excited etc. Equally, don’t encourage giddy excitement when playing, getting ready for a walk etc. These behaviours will be harder to stop at a later stage. When there is any unwanted behaviour, just stop all good things, and wait until your dog is calmer. Be consistent and patient.
Above all, enjoy the company of your pets. We are lucky to have them, especially at this time. Don’t worry – we have no idea of the effect but dogs are so adaptable and generally we can resolve any problems. Our dog’s behaviour will become worse if we are anxious about them – they get clues of how to behave from us.
Puppies have always been difficult to live with at times, and generally they turn out fine. They are demanding and learn quickly. Many of these issues are the same as always, but are heightened by the current situation.
We can only do our best. This will end.
I have stopped all meetings including classes, outdoor lessons and walks but there are details on my website of the services I am able to offer at this time.
Once this is over, I will be offering behaviour consultations and classes as usual, hopefully with extra classes outside, dog walks etc.
There are other APBC members who are offering remote consultations online.
Please do send me any nice photos / videos.
There is a book available on Amazon called “No walks No worries” by Sian Ryan and Helen Zulch.
The pages from the ‘Games to play with your dog’ handout are available here