Today Amy shares tips on how to help your dog when you go back to work. COVID has been interesting for our dogs - many of us have not left home! Now as things start to open back up, how do we help our dogs adjust? Jennifer Gladstone from Employment Background Investigations, Inc. hosted Amy on her podcast and today we are sharing the tips with you.Support the show
Let’s talk a little doggy psychology… why will getting back to normal be so difficult for our pets?
· There have been a lot of changes for many of us the past year and a half. People are staying home. We wear masks on our faces. We social distance. Puppies growing up now have some new challenges to handle.
· Specifically, dogs are social creatures. They like to be with someone. During COVID many of us have stayed in our homes – we aren’t leaving for work or school and our dogs are getting used to always having someone around. They become dependent on knowing someone is there with them all of the time. To be honest the dogs are LOVING it. UNTIL…we have to go back and leave, then they can really struggle.
How will you know if your pet is stressed out by the change? How will they communicate that with us?
· Dogs communicate with their body language and vocalizations – barking, whining, howling etc.
· If you haven’t thought much about body language yet, I encourage you to learn more. It is fascinating to learn the basics and then observe your dog day to day and be able to understand what they are telling you simply by their actions. Simple things like a shake-off. Have you ever seen your dog shake off when they just had a bath? That’s to get the water off. What about during the day after a training session, or when the kids run out of the room, or they just left a play session with another dog? They are shaking off to calm themselves down. It’s like us finishing something stressful and taking a really deep breathe. It resets us. Dogs do the same thing.
· When a dog is “noodly” as I call it, they are loose and agile. They are bouncy and happy. Their body is relaxed and they are happy.
· When a dog tucks their tail, leans backwards, cowers, pins their ears, looks sideways so you can see the whites of their eyes and has a tight mouth, we know our dog is fearful and stressed. They need distance to help them return to a calm state.
· If a dog is standing tall, leaning forward, with a high stiff tail (it may even be wagging – but it’s stiff and fast) with ears forward and head in the direction of it’s target, it is alert and intently focused on something or someone.
· As for vocalizations, there are many different sounds a dog makes and each one has motivation behind it. Dogs do things for a reason. Figuring out what is motivating their sound helps us understand why they are doing it and that leads us to solutions as we try to help them feel better.
· Many dogs these days, simply haven’t been given time alone – but when done right, they handle it just fine. Most likely if your dog is not accustomed to being alone, they will cry, howl, whine or bark to signal, “Hey, I’m not sure I like this, remember me? I’m over here but I’d really rather be where you are.” After all, that’s how most have lived during COVID. We start slowly and set our dogs up for success. We go at a pace they can successfully handle and increase time over several weeks until they are just fine being alone. They may fuss or whine initially or show body language that they are somewhat stressed. But when we take it at their pace and make it a positive experience from the get go, the dogs do well and you’re able to leave your home knowing your dog will be fine until you get back.
· That said, there are extreme cases and dogs who truly panic when left alone. Watch for signs of excessive drooling or stress accidents – the dog eliminates in their crate or pen which is out of the ordinary for them. They may try to escape their enclosures or paw at the door/exit to get to you. If you left a piece of steak by the front door as you exit, would they ignore it? These are more serious signs of stress and I highly encourage you to speak with a trainer on how to get your dog feeling better about being alone.
What do dog owners need to start thinking about now if they are going to radically change their schedules?
· What will my day look like when I go back to work or school?
· Will I have breaks to come back and spend time with my dog?
· Do I need to hire someone to help out during the day so my dog isn’t alone all day?
· Who lives around me who may be able to help out?
· New puppies need social interaction during the day and it is a good idea to find family members or friends if needed to help watch them initially.
When is the right time to start working with your dog to get them ready, and how do you do that?
· It is a good idea to start today making your schedule look like what it will when you’re away. This gives you and the dog time to adjust and it helps your dog feel part of a routine. They know from this time to this time it is crate time. Most importantly they know you always return. The initial routine does not need to be exactly as it will be. Start slowly. Your starting point will depend on the skills your dog currently has. For example, you may be able to begin with one hour of crate time daily and build up to several hours. If your dog is fully housetrained, but you haven’t left them home alone yet, start by leaving them for 5-10 minutes while you go for a walk outside. When you return you can see how they did and add time dependent on that discovery.
Is there anyway employers may be able to help? Having employees worried about what’s going on at home is never a recipe for success.
· This varies widely from company to company as they are each unique – but allowing employees to have a longer lunch break or mid-day breaks to go home and let their pets out would be helpful. If it is possible to have the dog come to the office and spend 1-2 hours with them that is ideal – I know not always possible – but if so, dogs make great therapy companions and in this stressful time may do more good than many believe in the workplace!
Tell us about BAXTER & Bella and how we can find you…
· My husband Scott and I started this company to help educate families how to incorporate a dog into their homes. As mentioned, dogs are social creatures and do so much good for us emotionally, physically and mentally. It is a joy having them a part of my family and I wanted to share with others how they can do the same.
· We run the business together. We created The Online Puppy School complete with lessons, videos, classes, courses, one-on-one sessions with trainers and more to educate and show others exactly what we do with the dogs we train professionally.
· You can find us by visiting baxterandbella.com. I also host The Puppy Training Podcast as a free resource to anyone wanting to learn more about how to train their dog.