This week sees us in a very different reality to the one we were living in as recently as the beginning of the month; as the UK as a whole begins to get used to the stay at home restrictions mandated by the government in the wake of the Covid 19 epidemic, to slow the spread of the virus and ease the pressure on the NHS.
We’re all on a very steep learning curve, and struggling with many different things and on many different levels, whether we’re continuing to work more or less as normal, working from home, or finding out that being able to stay at home with no work and with nothing to do for the better part of the day is not in fact as awesome as it sounded before it became unavoidable.
Anyone who owns a dog will of course have to factor in caring for their pet during this time too, and it may be self-evident that this dramatic lifestyle change for people is also having a knock-on effect on our dogs too. As a lot of us have lost the normal routines that we live by, normal rules are suspended, and we’re somewhat lacking in direction and options in terms of what we can do and how, this can be very challenging to get to grips with mentally as well as logistically.
Watching a lot of TV, reading a lot, eating junk food, drinking lots of gin, and relaxing the rules for the kids are all things that are helping many of us get to grips with things, although we do of course also know that exercising some self-control and not letting this become all we do will become ever-more important as time goes by.
When it comes to our dogs, it is very easy to throw their routine out of the window too and relax the normal rules we have in place to keep them under control and run the household as we want to; but this is something that all dog owners should work really hard to avoid doing.
Naturally, it’s unlikely to be possible for most dog owners to keep their dog’s exact routine in place unless nothing at all in their own lives has changed, which isn’t true for many people; but trying to keep to your dog’s routine, minimise the impact of change, and maintain the usual rules that are in place for your dog is important at this time of uncertainty and upheaval.
With this in mind, this article will explain why and how you should try to maintain your do’s routine, and be consistent with the rules, during the coronavirus stay at home restrictions. Read on to learn more.
Dogs need a routine, which should encompass all of their necessary daily activities like when they are fed, when they are walked and for how long, when they get opportunities to toilet, and ideally, when they can expect people to be coming and going, and how long they’re left alone for at a time.
What your dog is fed, consistency in terms of how you treat them, and generally, providing a set framework and structure for your dog is key to ensuring that your dog is happy, feels safe, and can rely on the parameters of their life being known and predictable.
Uncertainty makes dogs anxious, and dogs that aren’t sure if or when they’ll get walked, that may not have the chance to go to the toilet when they need to, and that don’t know when they’ll be fed next tend to be not only unhappy, but stressed and exhibit behavioural problems too.
Rules are an integral part of this, and dogs need to have clear boundaries in place for what they are and are not allowed to do, and they need consistency in this in order to understand it.
Relaxing the rules and restrictions sometimes might seem like doing your dog a favour; like letting them sleep on your bed when you feel sad and need reassurance, or giving them food at the table at Christmas; but the opposite is the case.
Dogs cannot understand, and quite reasonably so, that some things are allowed sometimes but not at others; because there is no logic to this. If you let or encourage your dog to do something one day and tell them off for it another, you’re not being kind to them, but actually unfair, and this will make them insecure, anxious and confused, just like a lack of routine will.
Few dog owners will be able to keep their dog’s routine totally the same as before, but minimising and managing the changes will go a long way.
If your dog has to be cut from two daily walks to one, for instance, make that one walk longer, and try to substitute the second with a period of other activity.
Adjust your dog’s food intake and timings (and toilet breaks) accordingly if their exercise levels change, and do this gradually over a week or so.
Try to keep the household routine as near to normal as possible; getting up really late every day because you have nothing to do will soon impact on your dog, and won’t be very good for you either.
Don’t break the usual rules in place for your dog just because everything else feels weird and uncertain. Maintain their proper boundaries, enforce the rules, and if needed, refresh their training and skills to ensure they keep nice manners!
If you have children at home due to the restrictions too, ensure that they understand all of this and don’t sabotage your good work.