Your Dog & The Easing of Lockdown
When lockdown was brought into play, we considered the impact of the ‘new norm’ on our pets, and we offered some ways in which to help your pet stay well, happy and stimulated.
Now that lockdown measures are beginning to ease, it is just as important to consider the impact of these changes on your dog.
Let’s explore why this is important.
Much may have changed
During lockdown, it’s quite likely that we have all been spending much more time at home than usual. So, for those with pets, you may have been around them much more. This won’t go unnoticed by your dog. And, for many, this is something your dog will now have come to expect as the norm.
While some dogs may easily slip back into old routines, where their owners are at work, and they perhaps spend less time together, others won’t make this turnaround so easily.
Even if your dog had no problem with separation in the past, signs of separation anxiety, or other behavioural changes may still occur following the lockdown period. Dogs can be very sensitive to change, and it doesn’t take them long to become reliant and used to you being around much of the time.
If you are beginning to ease back into your usual routine, and if that involves being away from your dog more frequently than in recent months, or changes to your dogs routine, be conscious of these changes and try to build up to them as gradually as you can.
You could even consider installing a camera in the home to monitor your dog’s behaviour when you are not around. Look for changes in your dog’s behaviour: excessive salivating, pacing, crying, barking, chewing, destructiveness, obsessive behaviour such as shadow chasing, and so on.
If you’re unable to install a camera, perhaps check with a neighbour to see if they could help you monitor any signs of distress: crying, howling, barking. Maybe they could even check in on your dog, if they are available to help.
If you suspect that your dog’s behaviour is changing as you ease back out of lockdown, in ways that could indicate distress, anxiety, new fears, etc, it is important that you consult with your vet and/or with a behaviourist to navigate these changes and look at where they may be stemming from. This way, you can utilise behavioural expertise in order to manage these behaviours and help your dog feel more comfortable with the changes.
Remember also, that these changes may occur in any of your pets, cats too. If your cat is particularly accustomed to having you around, and spends a lot of time indoors with you, this could also be something to note.
Walking and Exercise Changes
It is also very likely that, during lockdown, your walking routines may have changed somewhat. It may be less of an issue since measures were put in place to allow people to exercise more regularly, and with fewer restrictions. But as we come out of lockdown, changes to these routines may become more abrupt. For example, walk times may change dramatically for those returning to work.
Consider feeding times also, as walks and exercise should allow for both adequate resting periods after eating, and time for your dog to ‘do their business’ afterwards.
If your dog’s exercise routine has changed since lockdown, it is important that you consider phasing these changes back to the norm, rather than making sudden time alterations.
You could perhaps engage the help of a friend or neighbour, (preferably someone your dog knows, and is happy to walk with) if you have to go back to your working routine straight away, or speak to a reputable dog walker to see what sort of phasing routine you can manage together.
Additionally consider changes to the manner in which your dog has been being walked lately, such as: always being walked on lead as opposed to free running or longline walking; having gotten used to walking at a distance from other dogs and people; being walked in specific, quieter areas, and so on.
Every change matters. So, it’s good to be a little extra vigilant when returning to the norm. Our pets don’t know why these changes are happening and, for some, this can cause anxiety.
During all of these changes, our dogs may have been less used to socialisation cues or behaviours. It may be that you need to re-build your dog’s confidence and skills in socialising with other dogs, and with people. Be mindful of any changes in your dog’s behaviour. And if you note any of concern, speak to a professional.
How to Manage Changes
Make a plan.
Before any major changes occur, if you are able, put a plan in place to build up to these changes as gradually as you can.
For example, consider what your dog’s behaviours were when you first got them and brought them into your home as part of the family. Consider how you perhaps built on routines, such as leaving them only for shorter periods and building up in stages.
Allow your dog time and space to adjust, try not to rush them into any new routines. Allowing them to adjust at their own pace is likely to make the process less problematic.
For some, the process may be a much smoother experience. You may find that your dog slips right back into their old routine without any bother. But it may not be the case for every change. Every dog is different. You know your dog, so you’re the best person to recognise when they are not ‘themselves’, so be mindful of this while lockdown measures bring changes to you and your dog’s routine.
If your dog has been restricted in socialisation situations, allow them to build up their confidence around other people and dogs, gradually.
You could, for example, walk your dog with a friend and their dog to monitor any changes in behaviour towards each other. Give them enough space to feel comfortable, without letting them off lead together straight away: such as having them on a longline, allowing them the freedom to sniff and explore, while still keeping safety measures in place to deescalate, should they become fearful or anxious.
When walking with another dog in this way, it is also helpful to keep your dog’s lead loose (while maintaining a good grip at the handle) rather than taut (where the dog is pulling) as tension on the lead may create a sense of tension in your dog.
The most important thing is to keep your dog in mind while changes occur. Plan, as much as you are able, to phase these changes gradually. Consult with your vet or a behavioural professional if you are worried about any changes in your dog’s behaviour. And be patient.
These changes will come easier to some dogs over others.
If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s wellbeing, please consult with your vet.