Dr Harry: COVID-19 and our dogs
I don’t really think that any of us know quite what our lives will be like when things return to ‘normal’. For the great majority of us life has been very different, and with all of this has come heightened levels of stress. We don’t like the stress! Many people have gone out and either adopted a pet or spent a good deal more time with the ones they have.
Of all the pets we have our dogs have always been the ones closest to us, and the ones that seem to understand our moods more than most.
How will our canine companions fare once we start changing our routines?
Being at home you have spent a lot more time with your ‘friend’. So the bond between you and that dog of yours has dramatically strengthened. Changing the bond will be difficult for many dogs. They feel that ‘love’ and ‘need’ as much as we do and when it suddenly changes, they are likely to become anxious. It’s a case of slowly, slowly as we go back to work, and for our dogs it has to be much the same.
They need things to entertain them when you are not there. Leave the TV on, or at least some music. Make sure they have their favorite toys, in particular those that offer food rewards. The simple act of chewing lifts endorphin levels and helps dogs cope. Try a food ‘treasure hunt’. Start introducing this sort of thing well before you change your own routine.
Above all else, look to your own body language. Try to be upbeat, but not over the top. So many people feel guilty about leaving their dog behind for any reason at all. When they leave or worse still when they come home, they make a big fuss about seeing their pet once again. This will make things worse. Your dog will literally take advantage of this and almost demand more interaction. Try to be a little bit tough. I call it Tough Love.
Don’t make a big fuss as you leave and particularly when you come home. When you get back your dog will be really excited to see you. Don’t over react, rather say a simple ‘Hello’, wait a good ten minutes till your dog settles down and then, YOU can call your friend over and then you can make a fuss. Sounds hard to do, it is, but in time it works.