A ruff roadmap! How to prepare your dog for lockdown lifting
- Credit: Dogs Trust
Getting out of the house more and returning to a regular routine will be a big adjustment for us all, after so long spent staying at home as much as we can.
The same is true for our four-legged companions, who will have become rather used to having us around a lot more often.
So as the government's roadmap takes us through the incremental steps towards lockdown lifting, the advice from Dogs Trust is to use the staggered process as an opportunity to wean our pets back into a routine where they are a little more independent.
Director of canine behaviour and research Rachel Casey said: "It’s safe to say life has not been normal for many of our dogs for the majority of the past year. They've had less interaction with other dogs, fewer visitors coming into the home and they haven’t spent much time alone since the pandemic began.
"A return to normal could be confusing for our dogs, especially puppies acquired during the pandemic. But the good news is, it’s not too late to prepare your dog for lockdown easing, and to teach them vital skills that they can apply in any situation.
"A big worry for us is what the long-term impact of lockdown will have on dogs’ ability to cope when left home alone.
"Dogs that had separation anxiety before the lockdown are likely to get worse when left again as owners head back to work – but we also expect to see new cases developing, because other dogs, and particularly puppies, have learnt to expect company all day.
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"If they expect us to be about all the time, it will be more difficult for them to cope once we eventually go back to our normal lives and aren’t in the house 24/7.
"It’s important to start now to avoid future problems – and it’s easy to do. Just make sure that you factor in time apart from your dog each day to help them be able to cope when alone.
"By organising your dog’s day to gradually increasing time apart, as well as play times, exercise, other activity sessions like giving them a food filled toy and quiet times, you can make sure that your dog is able to settle on their own and help prepare them for the different aspects of ‘normal’ life when we get back to it."
Stage one: From March 29
The plan is to reintroduce the 'rule of six' in outdoors settings from this date, including in your garden, meaning your pets might get to see quite a few people at once for the first time in a while.
Dogs might struggle with the new and exciting sights, smells and distractions, so Dogs Trust's advice is to brush up on recall skills, greeting people and loose lead walking in preparation.
Stage two: From April 12
If all goes to plan, from April 12 we'll be able to sit in beer gardens at the pub again to enjoy a drink in the sunshine.
At dog-friendly watering holes, where there is likely to be a lot going on, it's important a dog knows how and when to settle down to avoid getting overexcited.
Dogs Trust says teaching a dog to settle can also help a dog to cope when left on its own for a short while.
Stage three: From May 17
If nothing changes between now and then, from May 17 we'll be able to welcome people from another household into our homes.
This means our furry friends may have to get used to hearing more frequent ringing of the doorbell or knocks. This has always been a huge source of excitement for a dog, as they imagine all the treats and fusses this new arrival may bring.
Training a dog to wait patiently in a safe space like their bed until visitors have settled in can be beneficial for all parties, Dogs Trust said.
Stage four: From June 21
Hopefully by this point everywhere will be open and our lives will resemble something close to normality once again.
This also means those who have been working from home might be back in the office on the day-to-day, which will be a huge adjustment for pets as they have to get used to not being around their owner all the time.
Separation anxiety can be extremely stressful for dogs, so giving them small practice periods alone between now and then will help them to adjust more easily.