Guide for this time of COVID-19
Health Risks For Our Dogs – PhysicalIssue: Safety
With every member of the family likely to be spending most of their days at home, our dogs might be exposed to health risks that aren't usually a problem.
Kids crafting, baking, snacking and playing may place your dog (and other pets) at risk of ingesting items that can be extremely harmful to four-legged animals.
'How to Prevent Common Pet Emergencies During Quarantine' by Jason Nicholas, BVetMed, provides a comprehensive overview of the special dangers of these times for our pets. Check out the article at https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/how-to-prevent-common-pet-emergencies-during-quarantine
Issue: Healthy Weight
There’s a risk that food-related activities could pile on the weight for our dogs (a risk for humans too ). Deduct the food you use for dog training and enrichment from your dog’s meal-time food; so rather than extra food, your dog is getting the same amount of food but delivered in interesting ways.
Health Risks For Our Dogs – Mental
Dogs are experiencing more attention than they are used to, plus well-established habits have been replaced with unstable schedules.
Pets are likely to be subject to much more attention (and stress) from children in the home than they are used to. Regularly talk with your children about the importance of giving the dog (or cat or guinea pig) lots of alone-time, and be prepared to supervise interactions more than you might otherwise. All pets have to be allowed to move away to a quiet, alone-space that everyone in the family respects.
This is a good time to get familiar with your dog’s body language so you can respond appropriately. How do they show you they’re tired, stressed, (over)excited, frustrated?
Canine Body Language Guide
Stress Specific Guide - Pat Miller's Whole Dog Journal article, 'Stressed Out' covers the causes and signs of stress: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/training/stressed-out/
New Pups/Recently Adopted Rescue Dog
Issue: Helping your dog to be comfortable in his world is a crucial role for pet guardians. This process is often called “socialisation”. The activities you can do with your ‘new’ dog are limited right now, so you need to be creative with socialisation. There are learning experiences that you can generate at home, related to:
• People – time to get that dress-up box out: glasses, wigs, hats
A comprehensive article on socialisation options in this time of social isolation has been prepared by Jessica Ring of My Fantastic Friend https://www.myfantasticfriend.com/2020/03/19/time-is-of-the-essence-puppy-socialization-during-a-pandemic/
TrainingIssue: Dogs behave like dogs, sometimes leading to their humans becoming frustrated and irritated. (There’s no BAD-DOG Behaviour; there’s behaviour that humans don’t like! )
This is a great time for training activities with your dog. There are lots of reasons to prioritise training at this time:
• Training gives your dog’s brain a workout, and it will give your brain something to do other than look at all those screens in the house
• You can tackle challenges like your dog barking at passers-by
• You can refine simple ‘manners’ behaviours – Sit, Lay Down, Stay, Walk on a Loose Lead
• Try out tricks
There are so many resources out there! Plus, you can always reach out to us for help.
Here’s our best advice for all training:
• Focus on FUN for both of you, and stop any training activity while you’re both still enjoying it.
• Take notice and acknowledge with praise and the occasional treat all of your dog’s good behaviours - when your dog chooses not to jump but to sit quietly at your side when she wants your attention, for example. Unwanted behaviour naturally gets our attention, but don’t take good behaviour for granted.
Enhance your dog’s wellbeingThis process is often called “enrichment” and involves giving your dog options in terms of a range of activities.
- Explore your neighbourhood – walk different routes and allow your dog to do lots of sniffing. Sniffing is both relaxing and mentally stimulating for a dog. It is sort of like a creative hobby might be for us – our brain is happily whirring away while we are doing it.
- Food Puzzle Toys (DIY & retail) – Muffin Tray, Snuffle Mat, Stuffed Kong
- Games & Fun – Hide & Seek, Digging Pit, Find it, Tug of War
The Gentle Modern School of Dog Training YouTube Channel – Tricks, Food Puzzle Toys, Stuffed Kong recipe, and morehttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-STAPn1Q4ULfIBAXm04K7g/
Digging Pit Guide
8 Fun Scent Games Your Dog Will Love By Steve Duno https://moderndogmagazine.com/articles/8-fun-scent-games-your-dog-will-love/80052
How to Teach Your Dog Object Names By Nancy Tucker https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/training/cognitive-skills/how-to-teach-your-dog-object-names/
Range of products and tips from the Australia Dog Lover https://www.australiandoglover.com/2020/02/top-12-boredom-busters-for-dogs-in-2020.html
Thinking Ahead to Resumption of 'Normal' Routines and Absences
Our dogs are going to get used to us being at home. They are likely to feel our absence keenly when we all return to School/University/the Office. Prepare your dog for that future by not being too dependent on each other right now. Maintain alone time and separate time. For example:
• Go to the mailbox without your dog
• Go for a walk without your dog
• Work in the back yard without paying any attention to your dog
• Read alone in your bedroom with the door closed
Occasionally follow a normal (pre-COVID-19) work-time departure process – for example:
- put on your office shoes,
- get a food container (your ‘lunch’) out of the fridge,
- pick up your keys and handbag,
- round up the kids (they’re ‘off to school’),
- hand over the long-lasting dog-chew to your dog, and
- go through the door to the garage (or go into your home office and close the door for an hour).
Follow through the 'departure' process as much as you want. You might drive around the block and return home. You might, in fact, be going to the supermarket, but time it for a work departure and dress and act like you’re off to the office for the day.
You could leave your laptop camera recording so you can see how your dog responds.
Use toys designed for independent play (that is, play that doesn’t involve you). For example: Hanging toys that your dog can bat about: for example, bungee products such as the ‘home alone’ toy and ‘chook’ toy from Aussie Dog Products – https://aussiedog.com.au/product-category/alone/
Give your dog long-lasting chews which she can enjoy separate to you (e.g. she has the treat in the backyard while you are in the house). For example, deer antlers take a long time to chew.
Make a 'Special Space' for your dog to relax in your absence: Where does your dog like to hang out? Is there a sunny spot near the kitchen that he likes to stretch out? Is there a cosy nook near the heating vent? Put a dog bed in this spot - a bed with sides if there might be draughts sometimes. Set up a radio/speaker nearby that will play white noise or soothing music (think reggae or special compilations or instrumental). What other things do you know that relax your dog (exercise, certain aromas, blankets they can make a nest from, lying on an old t-shirt you've worn, etc)? How can you employ them? Experiment before you're back at work.
If you are concerned about your dog shadowing/following you continually, wanting to have body-to-body contact with you when you are stationary, showing alarm/stress at your absences, discuss this with your Vet asap.