Lots of things have changed in our lives since the COVID-19 pandemic began circling the globe. Many of us have been working from home, while others have been laid off, and still others have been donning extra gear like masks and gloves to go to their essential jobs. Almost everyone has been affected by this catastrophe in some way. And whether you know it or not, it’s affecting the animals in our lives as well.
Here are just a few of the ways that the pandemic and social distancing rules may be affecting your dog, as well as some ideas for what you can do to help your dog adjust.
disrupted routines and diets
If you’ve been working from home or laid off lately, your dog’s regular routine has probably changed a little bit, whether it’s the time the two of you wake up and go to sleep, the time he gets fed, or the more frequent occurrence of potty breaks and walks during the day. He’s probably happy for the extra playtime, outdoor time, and some of the other changes, but they can also be confusing for him and difficult to get used to. For example, if your dog is used to long peaceful days with lots of naps, it may stress him out that you’re around all the time, being a distraction and disturbing his sleep. Some dogs need alone time, after all! Your dog is also probably picking up on your heightened anxiety, which contributes to an overall sense of uneasiness.
And when you go back to work, things might be even harder for Fido to adjust to. Being cooped up more and not able to play or go potty as much has got to be hard!
Luckily, you can help your dog adjust. Dogs thrive on routine and on knowing what’s expected of them so that they can work hard to please you! Try to keep their schedule as normal as possible in any way you can—get up on time and feed your dog when he’s accustomed to being fed. And even if keeping certain parts of your dog’s schedule the same isn’t feasible during quarantine, at least try to get him back into his routine (or close to it) a week or so before you go back to work.
If you aren’t great about keeping your dog’s schedule on track during quarantine, at least make sure you’re more understanding when your dog isn’t quite himself or screws up some of the rules. He’s still just trying to figure out exactly what’s expected of him in this strange new normal.
Your dog may have you around all day now, but he might miss the other social activities he used to have, such as going to the dog park or having visitors over to the house. If your dog regularly interacts with people or animals outside your household (like doggy daycare), it’s easy to see how the removal of these social activities might be difficult for him. Nobody wants to be quarantined away from their friends, especially if you don’t even know why! Plus, if you’re working from home, it won’t be the same for your dog as when he has your undivided attention.
Once you go back to work (if you do), your dog might be even lonelier than before. He had you around for so long to cuddle and play with him, and now you’re hardly ever around anymore! It’s going to be hard to get used to if he doesn’t have any other playmates around.
Again, one good thing you can do is be a little more understanding than usual with your pup when he misbehaves. Try to give him more attention in the evening and weekends so he doesn’t feel so neglected after being able to spend all day with you while you were working from home or laid off. You can also try to come home more often on your lunch break or hire a dog-walker to check in on your pet during the day and give him some attention.
lack of socialization
This is especially important for puppies, but one problem with the stay-home order is that dogs are no longer able to spend time with strange humans and animals in order to help them become friendly and well-socialized.
Socialization opportunities may be few and far between during stay-home orders, but they do still exist. Because it’s very difficult for COVID-19 to be passed between humans and animals, you can still take your dog to beaches or parks that are open and let him interact with other dogs (and even people) the way he would have before. In fact, 6-foot leashes make the perfect measuring tool to help you stay socially distant while your pooch isn’t!
You can also do some at-home socialization exercises by exposing your puppy to different experiences they haven’t had yet, such as recorded noises, different surfaces to walk on, car rides, and videos of other animals.
At the very least, make sure you pick up a strong socialization game once quarantine is over. Get out to the park, go on walks, visit dog-friendly establishments, and even take your pup to work. If you’re diligent, you should be able to make up for the lost time and ensure that your pet becomes friendly and calm around strange people and animals.
You may have thought that your dog wasn’t affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related stay-home orders, but the truth is that your pup has likely been feeling just as confused and frustrated as you have. Dogs pick up on so much more than we give them credit for!
We hope these tips will help you get your dog back on his regular schedule and ease any anxiety he’s been feeling during this time of great change. Good luck, and happy pet parenting!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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