Seven tips to help your dog prepare for life after lockdown
This past year has brought with it many changes, not just for us humans, but for our dogs too. As offices closed and social activities were crossed out of our diaries, our pooches have had us around more and so haven’t spent much time alone. On top of that, they've also had fewer interactions with other dogs and even fewer visitors coming into the home.
Dogs we had before lockdown have got used to this new way of life, while those we brought into our homes during lockdown might not know any different - especially puppies who won’t have had many crucial early life experiences.
We might be eagerly anticipating a return to some sort of normality but, a return to normal could be confusing for our dogs.
That’s why it’s so important to prepare your dog for life after lockdown and help them to adjust as we start to return to the normal that we once knew.
Here’s seven of our top tips to help your dog ease into post-lockdown life:
Tip 1: Gradually increase the time your dog spends alone
Dogs are social creatures, and this last year they have been able to spend more time with their owners than ever before. While us suddenly being around more may have been a much welcome change, it’s important that we teach our dogs to cope alone to prevent separation anxiety from developing.
You don’t want to wait until the day you go back to work to leave them – so gradually start getting them used to spending time alone now.
- First, make sure your dog has a comfy bed or den, where they can relax.
- Then, give them something fun to keep them busy, like a long-lasting treat or puzzle toy.
- Gradually build up moving away while they are occupied and reward them for staying settled.
- Build up to spending time in a different room.
- Begin to make this part of their daily routine, remembering to always go at your dog’s pace.
Need some help with this? Find out how to get your dog used to spending time alone and how to deal with separation anxiety in dogs, if it should occur.
2: Introduce them to their doggy day care
Whether you are going back to the office, planning a day out or a long weekend away, if your dog can’t come with you, you need to find someone to look after them. Depending how long you are going to be, this might be a dog walker or it could be doggy day care.
Once you have done your research, read reviews and found one you are happy with, it’s time to introduce your pooch. This will give you the opportunity to tell them about your dog and their routine as well as giving your dog the chance to meet them and become relaxed in their company, while you are still around too.
Check out this guide to help you find a good dog walker as restrictions start to ease.
Tip 3: Welcome visitors to the house gradually
Your dog has spent much of the last year in the house with just you and therefore won’t be used to visitors. While some may happily welcome guests into their home, for others it could be a little more daunting.
This is why it’s really useful to train your dog to stay relaxed when visitors come to the door. To do this, you can teach them to run to a safe space like their bed when they hear the doorbell and calmly wait there until your visitors are settled.
Inviting friends or family over soon? Find out more about introducing your dog to visitors here.
Tip 4: Start to meet up with puppy pals
As well as not having much interaction with other humans, social distancing has meant that your dog is unlikely to have had much opportunity to interact with other dogs either. Pooches that joined your home during lockdown may need to take this particularly slowly.
- To begin with, reward your dog for keeping their attention on you and for walking on a loose lead.
- Once they're calmly walking on the lead you can start to walk at a distance from other dogs.
- Make sure their focus remains on you and keep far enough away that they don’t become excited or worried.
- Over time, you can start to walk a bit closer to other dogs.
Meeting up with puppy pals soon? Discover how to successfully socialise your dog with these tips.
Tip 5: Practise their recall
Social distancing has meant that many dogs have been walked on the lead much more than they otherwise may have been. Before letting them off-lead it’s important to brush up on your dog’s training to make sure they come back to you every time.
To do this, you need to teach your dog that coming back to you is always a good thing which can be done by showing them that it will result in fuss, play or a tasty treat.
Read our advice for getting your dog’s attention when you’re out and refreshing their recall.
Tip 6: Slowly start to introduce your dog to social settings
As life returns to some sort of normal and people start to get outside with friends and family, you may want to take your dog with you. While many dogs will love to come along, it could be overwhelming to start with and some may struggle with the additional sights, smells and distractions they may not have experienced for a while.
So, as well as refreshing their recall skills, it’s worth teaching your dog to walk nicely on lead, greet people with all four paws on the floor, and picnic etiquette.
It’s also important that we teach our dogs how to settle amongst the hustle and bustle, so start now at home while there are fewer distractions.
Heading to an event with your four-legged friend soon? Check out our guide to help introduce your pooch to social settings.
Tip 7: Invest in training
Don’t worry if your dog seems to find it hard adjusting to their new normal. Our four-legged friends thrive on routine and for many, the one they have known for the last year and a half is about to change.
To help prepare your dog for this change in routine (and to brush up on useful life skills) it’s worth investing in training. Our Dogs Trust Dog Schools run fun, educational, reward-based classes for puppies and adolescents. The classes help owners understand their dog’s behaviour to avoid common pitfalls that can lead to problems further down the line.
If you or your dog aren’t ready to attend the classes in-person yet (or it’s too far to travel) you can continue to take advantage of the virtual training.
Find out more about Dog School to see how it can help your pooch and check out essential training for puppies and dogs here.
Want more advice?
Our dogs need to be eased back into normal life just as much as we do. So, take it slowly and give them time to adjust post-lockdown. If you have noticed a change in their behaviour, then check out our list of common puppy behavioural problems with tips on how to resolve them.
If you’re really struggling then you should speak to your vet to rule out any underlying medical factors and ask them to refer you to a qualified behaviourist.
As restrictions start to ease, you and your pooch may need a little support as we go back to some sort of normality. Check out our post-lockdown hub that has all the information you need to help with that.