Things are changing. Many of us are going back to work, traveling again, moving for new jobs and other changes are really affecting our dogs. How is your dog dealing with the pandemic changes?
I am getting overwhelmed with messages and emails of dogs struggling with these changes. It’s not fair to them. They haven’t been prepared to deal with the pandemic changes.
Dogs are very social creatures genetically. That means teaching them to be alone is HARD sometimes and teaching them to be with people is easy.
What I am seeing constantly is our dogs are over stimulated because the owners are home all day, and/or they have separation anxiety. The idea of putting our dogs away and pretending we aren’t home or going for a walk feels silly, or wrong because it’s nice to have them around or doesn’t make sense. As a result, you have more then filled your needs having your dog around, but may have done them a great disservice now that you just got a call you are going back to work next week. Things are happening quickly. The last thing we wanted to do was let our loving animals down, except we have. We have by nurturing what we liked, needed, wanted and what was just plain easier on us. After such a stressful year, I get that. I’ve been there.
The first two weeks of the pandemic, my husband was restructuring his business. The house is mine to work in so he was secluded to…the bedroom. That was his work space like so many families. Our border collie, who is older, is prone to anxiety. We work hard to have consistency and balance with him when it comes to exercise, freedom and attention. Now, doggy dad is all of a sudden home all day and he’s laying against his legs for a few hours a day, at the least. It’s so nice and comforting, it really is.
Fast forward two months and we asked Dusty to get off the bed. He looks “unhappy.” It was the most pitiful look. He went to the edge of the bed and laid down, cut his eyes at us pitifully as if to say, “oh i’m so sorry, will this spot be alright?” It most definitely wasn’t and my husband and I looked at each other surprised, then said a firm OFF and he slinked away all pitiful, which is unlike him. He just doesn’t pull that nonsense. Some of our other dogs do, haha. Dusty however, really doesn’t, so it’s a red flag. He may have looked so cute and sad, but what I saw went much deeper. His independence being comfortable on the floor…gone. He was being manipulative with cute faces that he trained us to respond to (which is usually no big deal with him since we maintain balance and structure) and when that didn’t work and he still needed to hop off the bed, he was genuinely stressed. The floor was no longer the normal.
The new normal was physical closeness on furniture if someone is in the room, resulting in anxiety. That shows you how QUICKLY those things can change. We spoiled him and it fed into his genetic and intense need of social interaction and slightly anxious nature.
We created that stress by allowing something that seemed harmless and clearly was not. Giving into that cute face would make us feel better and ruin, absolutely ruin him. If we had added in another month or two of that and then left the house, I have no doubt he’d be back scratching the door, which we haven’t seen in years.
All of that because of letting him be snuggly and be with my husband several hours a day. He wasn’t even being pet much on the couch, just allowing him on furniture and leaning against his leg…spoiled. Spoiled dogs have no problem solving skills and can really lack confidence and purpose. That is what was happening to him. Seems like such a small thing doesn’t it? To a dog, it’s everything. You and your dog is all about how they view you, what do you represent, how and when do you share closeness, what does your home represent and how consistent are you with your teaching habits. If you were to confuse your kid about their bed time, constantly changing it, your five year old might do okay, though it wouldn’t be great for their development, but another five year old might really argue back and then another might develop anxiety from a lack of structure, a lack of knowing. Dogs are also diverse this way. Nothing may happen or everything could go wrong.
Prep your dogs now for what could be or might be. Don’t wait for that email saying you’re back next week. It’s just becoming so cruel for so many dogs that we didn’t take the time to give them what they needed to be successful through all of these transitions.
If you haven’t started yet, start now, just to make sure your dog can handle it with little fuss.
Bethany Wilson, Ruff Beginnings Rehab