Because we are living in strange times and have no idea when this will be over, people are becoming worried about the effect the lockdown will have on their dogs. They are concerned that they will miss out on long walks in different places or seeing their doggie friends. If you have a multi dog household, it will be easier for your dogs to socialise together. But if you have just one dog, you may be finding it a little more difficult to keep them busy and happy, especially if you are working from home. Suddenly, your dog has you at home all day and wants your attention.
My two are used to it. They regularly help me with emails and video calls – Rupert lays on my feet and Edie is perched on the top of the sofa. I used to look after Gladys the Schnauzer and she used to sit next to me with a paw on the keyboard. Because my dogs are used to me working, they don’t worry too much about what I’m doing and they tend to sleep until I’m finished.
So how are you going to keep them entertained while you work? Get into a routine. Right now, we’re all being told that a routine is good and will keep us mentally healthy as this continues. My routine is that I get up and walk my dogs first, have breakfast (give them their breakfast at the same time) and then, when I get the laptop out they know I’m working. They have lots of toys to play with if they want and it’s important that your dog has something to challenge his or her mental skills. Try a snuffle mat or a big chew toy. Fill a kong with yummy treats or even their breakfast in and let them chew. You can make it tougher by putting in a cardboard box and covering it with newspapers so they have to find it. Or put treats in a plastic bottle and let them chase it round.
Once they’ve had a chance to burn off some energy, get them to settle down and you’ll be able to work in peace and quiet for a couple of hours. During the day, when you take breaks to get coffee or tea or a snack, spend some time with your dog. Go out into the garden, if you have one, or walk round the block on the lead. Now is not the time to be practicing your off lead skills. I use a 2m lead which is perfect for social distancing. Let your dog sniff and work on that loose lead walking (which you’ve been promising to sort out for ages) so that your dog walks calmly. Think of it like a treadmill in the gym. It’s not supposed to be exciting!
If your dog is used to a crate or a playpen, give them a time out when you want to make a call or join a video meeting. My dogs always bark when I’m on the phone so I go into the bedroom to get away from them. Let’s face it, trainers dogs are a nightmare! It means I can think clearly without the constant “arf arf” noise in the background – as many of you will have heard if you’ve called me!
If you have children at home as well, encourage them to play with your dog. Home schooling needn’t be boring for humans or canines. Let your children read to your dog (they are excellent listeners) or ask your children to draw your dog. Maybe a bit of exercise for everyone in the garden to burn off that energy! If you have worked with a clicker before you will know that kids love this type of trick training. I’ll be loading up some videos of my two doing the basics of clicker as time goes on.
Finally, when you have finished work for the day don’t forget to give your dog a bit of praise and attention. I usually make sure that Edie and Rupert get a walk and a bit of a chat after a quiet day. Normally, I’d let them have a run but at the moment, it’s easier to just walk them on lead. They really don’t mind. All I have to say is “who wants a wee wee” and they are ready.
I know that it will be stressful for you with all the changes to your normal day. And you may worry that your dog will get attached to you but right now, they are looking to you for a bit of comfort while everyone is so anxious. Cuddles are allowed all day and you’ll find that most dogs are really good office co-workers.
Stay home and stay safe…
Sara, Edie and Rupert.