In a time of preparation, action, and holding pattern–a lot of folks are finding that their daily routines have been substantially altered. Losing jobs, working from home, kids not in school, activities changing- etc. So let's discuss how we can help our dogs adjust to the stress, and help ourselves keep some structure at the same time. We know the world is a really challenging place right now and hopefully every lit bit of what we CAN do will help.
Don't get lax with the rules! Just because your office is a couch, doesn't mean that Fido should spend the whole day up in your grill helping send those emails. For those not able to work from home, but still confined due to closures- the same applies. It's 100% fine to do some bonus snuggling when you need it, but remember to still be sure to keep some strong expectations in place so that your training doesn't backslide while we navigate this new territory.
It's okay to crate when you are home! In fact, we'd recommend a few hours of crate decompression time. We all are showing more signs of stress, and giving your dog an "out", particularly with a high value treat is a good work exercise for them, and will help them manage their stress. Let them worry about just "dog time" for a period of time each day, it's good for them. This is especially important for dogs who share homes with kids that are home too. It's a lot of activity if you are used to sleeping all day! Ensuring that your dog gets adequate rest and time to relax will help prevent stress or new unwanted behaviors.
Still walk your dog. Go outside! Don't stop and hug the neighborhood, but get that dog on a leash and go for a neighborhood walk. Practice an automatic heel, work on eye contact- have them do "paws up" on surfaces- it's a killer way to spend a lunch break when you are tired of skyping with your boss or just burn off a little of your own anxiety. We know, it may sound a little trite, and it's not going to fix the stress many of us are coping with, especially those in the service or event industry. But let's all agree to get moving and that practicing eye-contact with your dog will release some oxytocin, which is better than nothing in times like these.
Remember your indoor fitness and training activities! Balance pods, sound sensitization, treadmill running, puppy burpees and sit ups are just a few ways to keep your dog fit and busy in short bursts. We can commit to doing 15-20 minutes a day of focused exercises on most days. It will help both burn that excess excitement and energy, but there are other benefits. The engagement will help them also understand when you set a firmer boundary because you have to focus your attention elsewhere and they are staring at you with their ball in their mouth. I mean, speaking from experience as an owner of a border collie-- 90% of my time is being stared at anyway.
Keep mealtimes and potty breaks consistent! One of the major struggles we see with work from home humans originate because the routine is flexible- dog care can accidentally become inconsistent. Try to stick with the usual mealtime routines (don't forget it's great practice to at least train through 2-3 meals per week), and keep potty breaks in line with what you usually do- even if Covid19 has you doing them yourself instead of hiring a service. This will help your dog feel physically more regulated, and prevent any new unwanted potty behaviors during this time.
Work that "place" duration!! Send your pup to place, and make them practice just being present and still. Set up your "place" with either your place board, bed, etc in proximity to where you are at home, and use intermittent food rewards to reinforce holding position. You can do the same with the command "tuck"! This is a nice passive way to work your dog while you are going about your day.
In times of uncertainty, it is so hard to feel like we have little control, because we have literally, little control. I'm glad that I have dogs to help me practice social distancing, and it's not a bad time to work on their trick titles, either!