There have been many unintended consequences of this pandemic. In the pet world, there have been a couple of major pluses: many individuals and families have been at home more than usual, and the adoption rate is up. In addition, the number of those who have purchased pets is also up.
But these situations have been taking a toll on the dogs specifically. Dogs have become used to having people around all the time. That makes them expect it and in turn makes them needier than usual.
The same is true of the owners who have been spending way too much time with their dogs. Too much time picking them up or handling them. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be doing some training and playing and walking along with loving, but it has been too much!
As a trainer, I am seeing dogs much needier than usual. When separated at all, even being in another room, the dogs are crying and barking or trying to get to the family. They are not settling down and learning to be content alone.
It is critical that dogs learn to be alone in order to develop a sense of self confidence. If not, you might see dogs exhibit anxieties such as excessive panting, barking, chewing on themselves, destruction of their confinement area, inappropriate peeing and pooping.
What can you do to overcome this?
Leave dogs home alone for short periods of time in a place where they feel safe. Also leave them confined even when you are home. Begin with short periods of time.
Try not to have it always the same time of day. They should learn to be comfortable whenever it may be, rather than by the clock. Do not go back to them if they are noisy. Wait until they settle down a bit before going back to let them out.
Gradually add more time away based upon their age and potty training needs. Whatever you do, don’t tag team the dog by making sure someone is always home. The dog needs to know that you are gone.
Do not say anything to the dog when you put them in their private space. Likewise, do not say anything to them when you release them from their space. Make sure they have their toys in their confined area – which might be a crate, a room or a playpen. Also leave them something to lick rather than chew in the way of something edible.
Don’t have set times of day when the dog gets a lot of loving whether they are on your lap or you are down on the floor. Mix it up so they don’t learn to expect it always at the same time.
The consequences to dogs later on, if owners don’t deal with this now, are huge. Some dogs will end up on anti-anxiety medication. We want to avoid this and have your dog grow up comfortable in their own own fur when they are left alone and not always be dependent on a human.
Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com