Our lives have fundamentally changed in the last month, and with at least another month of shelter-in-place in sight, we need to take a step back and think about what is happening with our pets’ routines and expectations.
Most people, if asked, would agree that our dogs see the shelter-in-place as the best thing that has ever happened to them! Guardians who are always home! Lots of walks! Extra belly rubs! So, so much attention! And while all of that is true for most dogs, there have also been some significant changes in their daily routines and rest periods.
When the stay-at-home order first began, many of us humans felt, or still feel, disoriented because our routine has changed. We may not have as much privacy and quiet while we’re trying to work, we’re not going to the familiar places we always go. Mornings, evenings, and days of the week may be blending together. I was watching a Facebook Live with Chirag Patel, Theresa McKeon and Eva Bertilsson, and they talked about something that many of us may not have considered. Routine is important for pets just like it is important for us, and your pets routine has likely changed.
Most of us who work outside the home have a general idea of what our pets do all day, but we don’t REALLY know. Your dog may have a play/sleep routine of their own most days while you’re gone. Now that you’re at home, their routine has been disrupted. Your dog may snooze all day while you’re at work, but now they are staying awake to spend time with you. A dog who isn’t allowed on the furniture may actually nap on the sofa while you’re gone, and now their comforting nap spot is off limits. Your dog may not be getting their mid-day independent play time any more.
A change in routine, or a lack of routine, may impact your pets’ mental and physical health, especially if it alters their sleep schedule. Take a moment and consider how this new reality is changing your pet’s day. It will help if you keep to a routine, even if it is a new one. Waking up, feeding your pets, going outside to play, having quiet down-time in the house, and going to bed around the same time every day can benefit your pets tremendously.
When creating your new routine, make sure your dog is spending some independent time everyday. The fact that we have been home 24/7 (and are likely to be for the next four to six weeks) may lead our dogs to believe that we will be home for the rest of their lives! Once the virus is controlled and we head back into a more normal life, I am concerned that we are going to have a significant issue with separation anxiety in our pets.
Now is a good time to get into the habit of giving dogs some alone time either in their crates or in the house. Try to set up some time each day where your dog is home “alone.” This could be in a separate room from you (either in their crate or not), in the house while you go for a walk, do some gardening, or take a short drive around the neighborhood. Go through all of your normal “leaving the house” routines, leave, and then walk around the block or go sit in your car and listen to a podcast.
This is a stressful time for all of us — pets and people included — and I hope that we will all take care of each other as best as we can.
Though we aren’t holding training lessons in person, Paws4ever dog trainers are still here for you virtually. You can book phone or video training consultations here.
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