Because of the corona crisis, you may now have all the time you need for a dog. You are at home a lot, have time for long walks and a dog can offer some company, cosiness and of course a little comfort. But how are you going to do that later, when you have to get back to your old - or maybe a whole new - rhythm? How do you prepare a dog of today for the life in the future?
‘Our’ dog trainer Judith Lissenberg, owner of a junior, adult and senior dog and in lockdown for a few weeks already with her three dogs at home, is happy to help us out!
It’s a difficult time...
For starters: no one has ever seen anything like this before, and no one knows how the situation will develop. This makes it hard to give advice. But of course we can try to prepare our dog on the coming future as good as possible.
A dog is for life, not just for the corona crisis
Don’t you have a dog yet?
Then it can be very tempting to adopt one, the beautiful weather and lots of free time make it ideal to get a dog. But.. ‘A dog is fore life, nut just for Christmas’, is a popular saying of the English Rescue Dogs & Dog Rehoming Dogs Trust. We could change that into ‘A dog is for life, not just for the corona crisis.’ A dog not only takes time, but also a lot of discipline. Getting some fresh air also needs to be done when it’s raining or cold with a dog. Every. Day.
Can you do that?
Do you have the discipline and structure to make caring for a dog a permanent part of your life? Not just now, but for all the years to come? It’s quite a task! In the first weeks of the lockdown we saw a lot of dogs and people outside, all of them going for a walk. But now, when we seem a little used to the new situation, there are a lot less of them. Walking every day has to fit your rhythm and lifestyle. So think carefully about whether a dog really fits your lifestyle.
Already have a puppy?
Then you’re both lucky and unlucky. Lucky, because now you’ll probably have more time to build a great relationship with your new furry friend. Unlucky, because the corona crisis means you’ll have fewer opportunities to introduce him to the world he needs to become familiar with. Luckily there are a lot of opportunities to do things at home. And there are many dog schools that can guide you with online webinars or telephone consultations. Make use of that!
Socialisation tips for corona crisis puppies
- A puppy might not be able to get used to other dogs and people now, but on the other hand he will have fewer scary or unpleasant experiences. Of course you are there for the much needed social interaction by playing ánd cuddling with him.
- To get used to something, you don’t necessarily have to get in touch with it. Even from a distance your puppy can absorb a lot of information from the outside world by listening, watching and, above all, smelling. For example, let your puppy through the open car window get used to to cows in the meadow, construction workers or the sound of a passing train.
- It doesn’t have to be big. Fairs, animal zoos, markets or busy shopping malls often do more harm than good because of the enormous amount of stimuli that puppies get in these crowded places. Now use the little stuff. Hearing a lawnmower, walking over a few stones or seeing a breeding duck can also be very valuable stimuli!
- Indoors, there’s all kinds of oppurtunities to get your puppy used to all kinds of stimuli. Do this step by step and take it slow. The idea is that your puppy gets used to new things around him, not to frighten him! Make a sound with a pan lid, fold out an umbrella and sprinkle a few kibbles in there for your pup to discover. Put on a crazy hat, throw a towel over your head, pretend you are limping, let your puppy smell an orange peel, make sound with an empty garbage bag, move the garbage bin or turn on the kitchen mixer..
- Getting the outside world into your home is very easy these days. Search the internet for videos with all kind of sounds that your puppy may encounter in real life: screaming children, sirens, fireworks, thunderstorms, doorbells, ship horns… You’ll find it online!
Even screaming kids can be found online!
Learning to be alone
What can be difficult for dogs to learn now, is to be alone. And it may be that your dog has to be alone more later. Or has to again, because older dogs have to pick up a new rhythm after the crisis. Therefore make your dog get used that he can’t be around you all the time. For example, let your dog stay downstairs while you work upstairs, or let him stay in an other room when you’re preparing dinner. Or just take a walk without your dog. Are you going to get up at a different time after the corona crisis? Will your dog have to stay alone for a certain period of time? You can practise all that now, even when you’re at home!
Very important when learning to be alone is that your dog feels safe and secure where he is. Dogs love scheduled rituals that provide certainty and make their lives predictable. Will you go away for a while, even if it’s only to the other room? Use a standard signal, such as a pet over his head and a ‘take care of the house, I’ll be right back’. You can also make it predictable by giving your dog something to do, such as a chewstick.
Now you know how it is…
You now know better then anyone how it is and feels to stay home alone for a long time. You now might be able to imagine how that must be for a dog. And a dog probably isn’t allowed to do the things he secretly wants to do, such as: lay on the spot we like to sit, like the couch or the bed, or have an adventure in the garden.
Make your dog happy!
That’s why you could look if you can make your dog happy with some adjustments in your house, so that it becomes more of a home for him too. Don’t forget that he will often be the one who has to spend most of his time there! Think about:
- A dogs-only couch or chair, preferably one exactly like the one you have yourself.
- A lookout in the house and/or garden from where he can watch and guard, for example a chair in front of the window.
- A place for his hobbies, such as a sandbox in the garden where he can dig or a pile of bricks between which he can look for cookies that you have hidden for him.
Does your dog wants to follow you anywhere in the house, even to the toilet? Is he very restless and noisy when he needs to be alone? Is he going to scratch and destroy and won’t he eat the treats you leave for him? Those are signs of separation anxiety. A dog doesn’t start demolishing because he is bored, but because it gives him an outlet for his fear of abandonment. As soon as you notice one of these signs, consider contacting a dog trainer who can help you and your dog so that your home becomes a safe place for him again.