During the past couple of months while social distancing had become a “temporary” new normal, your dog would have literally been in doggy paradise! Dogs, by nature, want little more than shelter, food, love and your companionship therefore during New Zealand’s Covid 19 lockdown our nations dogs had all their dreams come true!
Having my dogs with me 24/7 had brought comfort, laughter, and a welcome excuse to escape the confinements of my home to exercise. Our dogs received more one on one attention, love and human family interaction than they had ever experienced before. However, with this, some concerns have surfaced regarding the health and wellbeing of our nation’s pets post lockdown.
Although I do not profess to be an animal behaviourist, in my line of work as the host of a Doggy HomeStay I have researched, observed and experienced a variety of dog responses when separated from their owners and or placed in an unfamiliar environment.
During the past few months, our pets have become more dependent on their family unit, now that we are back at level 1 and returned to work, school, or university we are again spending more time away from our homes and pets. With all these changes have you noticed any behaviour changes in your dog? Have they adapted well to not having “their” two-legged friends’ home with them day and night? I hope the transition has gone well and your dog has adjusted with little stress or signs of separation anxiety.
If you do feel your dog has struggled, they may be experiencing a form of separation stress, this can manifest initially as
- whimpering and whining
- vocalisation such as barking, whining, and howling
- panting and salivating
- soiling in the house or kennel
- destructive behaviour to property or self
extreme and sometime dangerous measures taken to escape confinement resulting in damage to property and injury to the dog.
It is desirable in most homes that the family dog does bond and interact within the family’s daily activities, but there will also be times when your pet needs to be left at home safe, secured and alone. For a dog to achieve this many Canine behaviourists and trainers encourage the owners and dogs to learn and have good separation practices. As the leader of the pack, we are key to ensuring our pet does have the independence and confidence to be content and relaxed in their own company.
If you want to have a more independent dog or puppy, preparing and practising for those inevitable “alone periods” is important. It’s worth noting even a dog that prior to lockdown that had spent hours of a working day during the week alone may be challenged.
Some suggestions my mentors encourage involve practising and putting behaviour boundaries in place daily, coupled with distraction, reward, reassurance, exercise, and sleep.
Ideas to bring into your home to practise:
- positioning clip stations about the home. More information regarding the correct technique and training method is available on Mark Vette’s – Animal behaviourist’s Facebook page
- creating new exercise routines like taking your dog for a ½ hour walk or run before you leave them alone: after exercise they should feel more relaxed and ready to rest or sleep.
- making the run, kennel or crate a positive place to go into by scattering a handful of dog biscuits inside the area each time they are put away.
- leave a couple of toys, or an old item of clothing which you have worn in their bed or crate (the item of clothing with your smell on it can be comforting)
- another dog may be the ideal buddy and playmate.
- leave the radio or tv on as a silent room can be a lonely place.
For more information or an alternative option to commercial Dog Boarding Kennels or Day Care facilities – Ask Jane about her “Doggy HomeStay” where your four legged friend will be treated as part of the family in a home away from home environment where there is room to play at PomeKi Farm – Situated just 14 minutes from Christchurch CBD near Prebbleton.