Sooooo…..how are we all doing? It’s a strange time isn’t it?
For those of you with dogs, you might find that they are delighted to have you around the house all the time. For those of you with cats…they might be wondering why you are STILL here.
I’m sure we all agree that this is a peculiar time for all of us, but we must remember that it is also strange for our pets.
At least we have the benefit of knowing why our regular routines have been upended. Our dogs don’t have a clue what is happening, and while many of them will be delighted to have their humans with them 24/7, some of them may find the shift in habits unsettling.
With two-kilometre restrictions in place, their walks are likely reduced and with everyone at home, their sleep pattern may be off kilter. While these changes may not seem like a huge deal to us, this could lead to frustration with our dogs so if at all possible, try to keep to your dog’s normal routine.
In our last blog we covered different ways we could entertain our dogs during self-isolation, but in this week’s blog we instead want to focus on maintaining a safe environment for you, your dog, and any children living with a dog.
Dogs love to sleep. In fact, even the most energetic dog in the world will sleep far longer hours than a human. With all the activity now contained in the house for most of the day, despite the reduction of walks, some dogs may find this exhausting and will seek their bed, even if you are trying to engage them in play.
If your dog is asleep in their bed, leave them be. Don’t pet them, cuddle them or even call them over. If your dog sleeps in the sitting room, and this is where the family now spend most of their time, perhaps move their bed to a quieter room; the hall, or perhaps a utility room? This means they have the option of retiring to a private room if they feel they need a break. Once your dog retreats to their bed, leave them be until they come back to you.
Playing with our dogs is great fun, but only if everyone wants to play. Once your dog has rested, and seeks you out, then you can engage them in scent games or hide-and-go-seek. If you are lucky enough to have a big garden, then play fetch. Now is also a great time to get your dog really well trained. Dogs love doing tricks, but teaching a dog to roll over/speak/shake hands (our dogs are one of the few groups that can safely do this at the moment) can be time consuming, and requires patience. Reward based training is wonderful fun for our dogs however, and will tire them just as much as a long walk, so use your time wisely. Dogs Trust has some great videos on training your dog which you can look at on our Dog School videos on YouTube.
In regards playing with our dogs, don’t engage in any rough play. Some dogs will find this a bit scary or intimidating, while others might enjoy it a bit too much and get overstimulated. While some adults might think this is a fun way to play with your dog, it will teach your dog and child(ren) that rough play is ok which could lead to unintended accidents. Instead we should encourage gentle play with our dog with no wrestling, and no hugging or cuddling. Although you may think this is a sweet way for children to interact with a dog, this type of affection can be stressful for dogs. Instead, give them gentle scratches on the chin.
And when it comes to your dog’s toys, reward them for returning toys in games of fetch. And remember to never snatch a toy away from a dog, and never ever tease them. This might be a great time to teach your dog ‘drop it’ or ‘leave it’ commands.
With the reduced number of walks, you might want to keep an eye on how much your dog is eating.
In the games and training we mentioned above, we suggested using treats, but make sure you are only giving them tiny morsels. If you usually give your dog a few treats a day, you may consider halving these treats now. Or if you are worried about your dog putting on weight, than perhaps change their reward from a treat, to their favourite toy?
But when your dog is eating, just like when they are sleeping, leave them alone.
No one likes to be poked, prodded or rubbed when eating a sandwich, and no dog will appreciate this either. In fact, most of us would even be uncomfortable with someone staring at us while we eat, and the same goes for dogs. If they are eating, don’t stand and stare.
Many people will say to us that their dog is very gentle, and would never bite, even if they approached them while the dog was eating. And while this is nice to hear, at the same time we would still insist that you leave your dog alone while they chow down.
They may be extra hungry now (if you are reducing their treats due to less walks) and they may be feeling slightly out of sorts with the new routine. So be polite, treat your dog with respect and leave them alone when eating.
Oh and there is one more point we need to stress. Never leave a child unattended with a dog. The bond between a dog and a child can be wonderful, and strong, however because dogs lack the ability to speak, their feelings can often get misunderstood, or unnoticed by a child (or by anyone for that matter), therefore we must insist on adult supervision between all interactions between a child and a dog.
We must count ourselves lucky to have our dogs, particularly at the moment. Dogs are eternally joyful, and wonderful companions at the best of times. Many people are not as fortunate to share their homes with creatures of unconditional love, so for those of us who do have this privilege, we must remember to treat our dogs with respect, love and patience, and most of all, ensure our homes remain safe environments for all occupants, be they human or dog.
Stay safe everyone.
Please do not leave dogs and children together unsupervised.