Letting the Dogs Out AgainJun 30, 2020 09:45AM ● By Barb Emmett
Life After Shelter-at-Home
In March, our dogs suddenly found us at home with them 24 hours, seven days a week, which meant more walks, more snuggle time and more play time with additional family members. The extra time allowed many of us to build tighter bonds, understand more about our beloved animal companions—their quirks, their behaviors, their likes and dislikes—and possibly recognize some health issues we might have overlooked.
As restrictions begin to lift and we start leaving our homes again for work or other responsibilities, our dogs will be trying to figure out what is happening in their world. Look to ease a pet’s transition as the amount of human-pet interaction time changes.
Dogs love routines. Be consistent with outdoor breaks, feeding times, play times and quiet crate times. Reduce the chances of separation anxiety by easing the family pet into a new routine that includes small amounts of time without human interaction. Leave the dog at home, in their crate if necessary, and run a few errands.
When leaving the animal for the day, come home after a few hours to let the dog out and provide reassurance. If distance or schedules do not allow for a mid-day visit, research bonded and insured pet sitters and dog walkers. Visit PetSit.com for resources.
Socialization is an important factor. Although training classes may be on hold, recently-adopted puppies and dogs can still work on socialization. “One great way to accomplish this is to take your dog for a walk in an outdoor place where you are guaranteed to see other people and dogs,” suggests Pat Emmett, BS, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA, training manager at Godfrey’s–Welcome to Dogdom.
“Maybe that place is your front porch,” he says. “Every time a person or a dog walks by, have your dog focus on you by giving them a treat enticing to them. They’ll associate people and dogs as ‘good things’. Take them to dog-friendly places again for short visits, like your favorite pet store. Socialization includes all these simple actions and more.”
Time spent in a well-run facility can make a huge difference in a dog’s life by exercising the dog and letting the dog interact with other dogs while they’re away from home. Be aware that even well-trained and socialized dogs may have some anxiety in returning to play with other dogs at day care facilities or play parks. Discuss readjustment techniques with facility owners. Be mindful of the canine’s behavior before and after facility and park visits, looking for signs of contentment or anxiety.
When considering adding day care to a pet’s routine, set up an appointment with the facility to have the dog assessed for the environment. Seek to understand evaluation recommendations; not all dogs enjoy playing off-leash with others.
Choose parks where health records are checked and where the dog can play with other dogs of his or her size. Pups should have all of their vaccinations (usually by six months), and be deemed “a healthy pup” by their veterinarian before attending.
Public, off-leash parks may be too overwhelming for puppies and adopted or foster dogs that are new to the family. Select a play park where safety is the primary concern. Some membership parks allow pet owners to schedule playtime for just their family and their dog. Playing safely in a fenced park can offer a great adventure together outdoors; a tired dog is a happy dog.
Pet owners know their dogs best. Be proactive and anticipate a canine’s reactions and challenges that may occur when changing an established routine. Contact a certified professional trainer for specific behavioral issues and to discuss strategies for success. Some trainers will provide helpful tips over the phone. To locate professional trainers that use positive reinforcement practices, visit KarenPryorAcademy.com.
Barb Emmett is a canine wellness advocate and the president/owner of Godfrey’s–Welcome to Dogdom, located at 4267 New Holland Rd., in Mohnton. For more information, call 610-777-5755 or visit GodfreysDogdom.com.