Many dog owners are concerned about how their dogs are going to cope when the world starts to return to some normality and human company is no longer available 24/7. This is a particular concern for those who have obtained puppies during lockdown and consequently they’ve never been left alone.
We can start to think about preparing our puppies and older dogs now, even though we can’t yet go anywhere just yet!
Think about the following:
- How much do you interact with your dog? By that I mean, if they are settled somewhere, do you go and disturb them for a fuss? If they’re occupying themselves, do you get involved? If they’re mooching about, do you pick them up and put them on your lap? Obviously there is nothing wrong with these things (as long as it is consensual from your dog’s point of view) but it is sometimes just being aware of how often you might do this – and it can be sensible to put aside a period where you just leave your dog be (building up to the same kind of length of time they might have to be used to not having anyone around eventually).
- Can your dog cope in another room from you, or when you pop to the shops or take the bins out? If you’re not sure, consider setting up a device to record them so you can really know what goes on when you’re not watching your dog?
- Does your dog have lots of independent, self-reinforcing activities available to them, or does all their enjoyment come from you? Providing lots of items for your dog to chew, Kongs and Lickimats for them to lick wet food from, fun toys they can play with by themselves, and even comfy beds for them to sleep in!
- How much does your dog sleep each day? Puppies need up to 20 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, and adult dogs up to 16 hours! When we leave our dogs home alone, it’s time for them to rest. So encourage sleep as much as possible when you are home so that this habit transfers when you start to leave them.
- Where does your dog choose to sleep when you are home? And do you then intend to confine your dog to an area they aren’t used to settling in when you go out? Either start to work on creating a strong positive association and sleep habit in that area now, or consider allowing your dog access to areas they currently have even when you leave.
If you do notice signs that your puppy or dog is struggling when you do pop out of the house, or they have historically shown separation issues when left alone, plug in an Adaptil diffuser next to their bed area and seek help from a qualified behaviourist – see www.abtc.org.uk.
Rosie Bescoby is a Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist with a degree in Psychology and Zoology and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling, based in and around Bristol and North Somerset. Rosie is a full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and registered as both a Clinical Animal Behaviourist and as an Animal Training Instructor with the Animal Behaviour and Training Council.