Getting used to our lives in Lockdown has thrown up a few challenges. Moving to the new normal will bring up even more, not least for our dogs. As we, as humans navigate through the changing world, we have the ability to understand and think about what is happening. Our dogs don’t have that luxury. Their routines, ability to socialise and many other aspects of their lives have changed, and will change again. This post will hopefully help you prepare your dog to re-enter the world with the least stress possible.
What happens when you are no longer at home?
Your furry friends have, no doubt, enjoyed having you are home for much longer periods. Both of you have got used to so many more hugs and attention. For many of us this will soon stop as we head back to working outside the home. There are a number of things you can do to prepare your dog for this. Separation anxiety can cause destructive behaviour, accidents, and barking but most importantly, we don’t want our dogs to be anxious if there is anything at all we can do about it.
  • Go for walks without your dog, to have them get used to short periods where you are out of the house.
  • Have some time away from your dog, even if you are both in the house. Go in a different room or use a pet gate or crate to provide separation. The aim of this is to allow your dog to feel comfortable being on its own.
  • Build up the time you are away from your dog before you suddenly return to work.
  • Provide toys that enrich their environment when you do have to eventually leave them.
  • One tip that works for me is to give your dog a treat as you leave. I always put mine in the same place. This way he knows I’m leaving him but he doesn’t associate being left on his own with a bad thing. I also don’t make a big fuss when I return (I tend to ignore him for a bit whilst I just get on with whatever I need to do). This way, he’s not hanging out for me to come back. 
  • Some people like to leave on the radio or the TV for a bit of background noise/company. I know some friends that leave on talk back radio and some that play animal documentaries.
  • Even if you haven’t used them before, you might consider using friends or family to help out during the day, dog walkers or doggy day care if your dog needs it.
  • As much as you need time to adjust to your new normal, so does your dog. Go easy on them, and yourself, as you get used to things.
Your dog has spent the last weeks being discouraged from socialising with other dogs whilst out on walks. Dogs all over the world will now have to learn how to socialise again. This will take time for both your dog and yourself to get comfortable with that notion again. For some it may take longer than others. Your dog has spent a long time learning that trying to go near another dog is a negative thing, as you’ve quickly walked past other dog walkers, crossing the street or maintaining a safe distance around your bubble. What can we do to help?
  • Don’t expect dogs, yours or others, to fall straight back into their good social habits they had before.
  • We recommend taking treats with you on your walk. If you pass another dog, give yours a treat to help it associate other dogs with positive outcomes.
  • You currently have the time to watch your dog’s body language and maintain a safe distance from other dogs. You should be able to anticipate any problems that your dog might have, be it fear, aggression or over excitedness.
  • Talk to people on your dog walks (even if it is short greetings and you are still social distancing) and to your dogs about them, in reassuring tones. Other people should be treated positively, even if you can’t get too close.
  • When possible, you could arrange some short meetups, on neutral territory, with dogs that your own dog has got on with before.
  • Go at your own dog’s pace, don’t rush before he/she is ready.
  • It might be a good time to think about some sessions with a trainer to help with social issues and separation anxiety. Your trainer will be able to work with you on your dog’s individual needs.
Socialisation with other dogs is a big issue, but so is socialisation out in the big wide world.
Traffic has been down, people haven’t been visiting your home, dogs have only been on walks close to home. Take time to consider the challenges that your dog will be faced as the world starts to get busier again. I know for us, I’ll need to give my dog a lot of support with passing trucks when we are out on our walks. This is something that made him nervous before, but that I believe, is going to be a big issue in the coming months. What can we do to help?
  • If you live with other people, have them spend time playing with, feeding, walking and relaxing with your dog.
  • Provide variety as much as you can in where you walk, the games you play, your routine (if possible).
  • Provide access to different surfaces and different textures. At home and outside. Grass, concrete, pebbles, bark, for example.
  • If you have bicycles, skateboards or scooters, continue to use them (at a safe distance from your dog). These things can be quite scary if they are suddenly thrust upon our dogs once again.
  • Take your dog out in a variety of weather and at different times of the day (darkness and daylight are important considerations).
Our overall advice is to take your time, reintroduce your dog to things gradually, try not to overwhelm them, and praise and reward when you need to. It will take time for us to get used to our new world, but it will be even more challenging for our dogs. Each dog is different and each of their journey’s will be an individual one. They helped you get through this difficult time, lets help them get through this.
“socialization does not mean putting a dog in a new situation and seeing what happens. Socialization means introducing new situations and making them safe, positive, confidence-building experiences.”
Paul Owens, The Dog Whisperer