Is your dog wondering why you are home so much? I’m normally home all day with the dogs anyway, but now my husband and daughter are home too. So Ginger and Bear are missing their quiet days, as am I.
This entire year I am taking questions from our Rescue Dogs 101 community and answering them in full here on the blog and YouTube.
This week’s #AskingForMyDog question came from Pat:
“We adopted a 9-year old rescue dog on January 21. She became familiar with our daily routine fairly quickly (I work outside the home, as does my husband, so we leave her alone all day and have a dog walker come in mid-day to give her a break and a fresh air walk). Now with this COVID-19 disaster, both my husband and I are at home all day and will be until it’s over. So I worry how Fawn (that’s her name) will react when we resume our former routine. Any thoughts or tips?”
Routine helps the mind feel safe for most dogs and people. Something is calming about knowing what’s coming next, don’t you agree?
Of course, right now no one knows what is coming next for us. But we can do our best to help our dogs feel comfortable by keeping their day to day routines the same.
I realize this is easier said than done. But if your dog is usually in her crate while you are at work, then still crate her (in a separate room) while you are working at home. Take walks at the same time the dog walker would have. Feed her at the same time. You get the idea… nothing else should change, other than the fact you are home.
When I searched for a scientific answer to how long it takes a dog to form a habit, the answers vary from 3 weeks to 2 months or more.
We recently spent 7 weeks in a hotel room during our home renovation. In this experience, I noticed it took my dogs about a week to understand the new routine. But as soon as we moved back home it only took 2-3 days to go back to their normal routine and behaviors.
My point being, once we can get back to our normal routines, your dog will most likely slide right back into the way things were.
Like I said above, we all strive for consistency, including your dog. So when life changes so drastically, your dog may start feeling unsure or scared. And many bad behaviors stem from either boredom or insecurity.
Work on building your dog’s confidence by working on simple training techniques. Nothing complicated here. Get a bag of yummy treats and train some fun tricks. Or maybe have some fun doing an obstacle course like the one we did with our dogs (see below video). The key word is fun. Never make dog training scary or demanding. The goal is to get your dog’s brain working positively.
If your dog is the opposite and is getting over stimulated with everyone home, then take a few steps back and evaluate what can be changed to create calmness. Some down time for the dog and your kids can be a good thing! If your dog is normally crated while you are at work and the kids at school, then keep the crate time the same in a quiet room. If your dog normally has free roam of the house while you are out, then maybe use a bedroom for some quiet time away from all of the commotion.
Embrace this time you have together. Soon we will go back to work and school. There will come a time again that we will wish we had more time to spend with our families and dogs.
Take advantage of your time at home by getting outside, take a walk with your dog… even if you have a fenced backyard! Stop and take in all that mother nature has blessed us with. Take a deep breath of fresh air and be thankful for what we do have. This is a great time to strengthen your bond with your dog.
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Now it’s time to help others. Please share in the comments below, what has worked for you and your dog? As a community we need to help each other, so don’t be shy. The simplest idea could help someone else struggling with the same issue.
Have a question of your own? Email me with the subject line #AskingForMyDog and I may choose to feature it in our next Q&A!
Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, two dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.