How to Prevent & Combat Over-dependence in the Pandemic
A Guide from Partners Dog Trainers
As we near the end of our ninth month in the “new normal” with Covid, we are beginning to see the unexpected effects that this pandemic has on our dogs. Unfortunately, a lack of socialization can take its toll on society and those most susceptible to long periods of isolation.
While staying home is in our best interest to slow the spread, and may SEEM like every dog’s dream, it can likely lead to overly dependent animals and subsequently, separation anxiety and other behavioral issues in your dog.
Suddenly, you’re home… all of the time. Which probably delights your dog and makes for a far better co-worker. So, most of us are in heaven!
However, what many are doing is unknowingly and unintentionally creating bad habits with their dogs that will likely lead to separation anxiety once everything goes “back to normal.” In the dog training world, we are beginning to see this trend. Moving forward, we need to prepare our dogs for the eventual change that they will experience when people spend more time outside of their homes.
We will start out with something you probably need to hear but may not want to…
Just because your dog CAN be with you all day every day, doesn’t mean they SHOULD. Allowing your dog to follow you around from couch to toilet, from fridge to table, from bed to backyard, to lay at your feet and jump to follow your every move can be an indication of separation anxiety.
Also, during self-isolation we are probably pretty needy with them as well! Talking to them, giving them undivided love and attention at every free moment… 1. Because we love them and 2. Because they are the only ones we come into contact with on the daily at the moment…. So they naturally get ALL the love! You can and likely WILL create separation anxiety with these basic habits alone.
Here are a few tips and things you can and should do to avoid creating over-dependence in your dog:
1. Crate Train your dog. Make sure your dog is comfortable in a crate. Yes, even if you are home. Give them dinner or a bone in there, let them enjoy some “alone” time in there with a positive outlet. Crate time lets them get distance, keeps the crate positive and relevant, and keeps them in the groove of crate time when you’re ready to return to work.
If you haven’t put them in a crate for weeks and have been their constant source of affection and endlessly available companion for several weeks on end, you bet you’re going to have full-blown riots if you go to put them in the crate as you rush out the door to get back to your first day back to work.
Do not feel bad putting your dog in a crate when you are home. This is actually super beneficial for them as it creates a healthy separation where they can enjoy independent time.
2. Teach your dog the place command. Broken down into really small, clear pieces; the place command means “go to that bed/towel/blanket, turn around and face me, lay down, and stay there until I give you something else to do.” This gives your dog a place to go that’s structured without having to go into a crate (although you should be doing that too). It also helps with stopping them from begging for your dinner or interrupting your Zoom meeting with your boss.
Work on this command for a short amount of time every day until they understand where they are supposed to go. Of course, they should have the foundation of “sit” and “stay” to begin learning this action.
3.Keep cuddle/pet time reasonable. I am not saying don’t cuddle and love on your dog! Of course you can! In fact, snuggling with your dog has a lot of health benefits. However, if that’s all you’re doing all day, every day; your dog is now addicted to that level of attention… everyoneis going to be in a world of hurt when you are leaving the home all day again.
4. Train with your dog. Instead of only doing snuggly things, you now have a lot of time to finally work with your dog on those obedience commands or tricks you have been wanting to develop! Take this opportunity to create more control and structure and build on your working relationship with your dog. There’s no time like the present!
Intelligent dogs like German Shepherds or poodle mixes benefit greatly from mental stimulation. Engage with them, give them jobs, and their anxiety level will surely go down.
5. Playdates. Especially for our younger pups, socialization with other dogs and people is a must. Socializing your dog to the world around can set your pup up for lifetime success. Failing to do so can bring about serious consequences. Unsocialized dogs can be extremely fearful and that fear can lead to aggression. Socialize your dog early and often with other dogs, people and situations.
6. Socialization is not just seeing other puppies. It is also really important for your puppy to interact with different surfaces, environments, sounds and more at a young age. Some options include a local dog daycare, park, vet office, and family friends with dogs. Check out this blog for cool places to socialize your dog around Phoenix.
We all need to make adjustments that ensure we are creating good habits! The time spent at home with our dogs is something we can cherish, while also remaining cognizant of how these habits can negatively affect them in the future.
We hope this was of some help, stay healthy out there Partners people! If you have any questions, reach out the Partners Dogs online and follow them on social media @partnersdogs. They have trained over 25,000 dogs with all kinds of issues. They offer a variety of packages built to suit you and your dog’s specific needs, including Doggy Day Care.
Doggy daycares comes in all different styles. What makes Partners stand out is that they are a behavioral school. Dogs can learn both bad and good behaviors from one another, but Partners specializes in turning good dogs into great. Each client has the opportunity to sign their pup up for additional training sessions to include with their play time during daycare.
All playgroups are monitored closely by trained professionals to which the dogs are taught proper play techniques with one another to ensure safety while promoting education. Each dog goes home with a daily report card to let the owners know how their ‘kid’ did that day. This is a great resource for those dogs who may struggle slightly with confidence (restrictions do apply), focus when and around other dogs, and for those dogs who just need simply to get out and have something to do. Please reach out to Partners to see if this would be the right fit for you and your dog.
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