Welcome to the May blog. It is one of my favourite months of the year. Spring is in full bloom, the air is scented with beautiful flowers and plants and life just seems to have more colour!
This month also hosts Mental Health Awareness Week (10th - 16th May). This topic has really came into the spotlight with the Covid 19 crisis and the effect that it has had on everyone's lives, including our pets!
Many so called 'Covid' puppies may have had limited socialisation with people and animals outside their immediate families and limited habituation with outside or unusual noises and environments. Routines in the home have also drastically changed over the last year and are set to again with the gradual opening up of society. As many of us know, our pets, particularly dogs thrive on routine and may be finding these changes challenging. I know many humans are!
Separation anxiety is also an increasing problem. Although many of our pets are resilient, dogs particularly can find this difficult. It can exhibit as fear, distress or frustration when a dog is left alone and can lead to frantic chewing and destruction, toileting indoors, barking and howling, shaking and pacing.
So how can you help your dog?
Make sure your dog is getting enough physical and mental stimulation. A regular walk according to their fitness, with lots of sniffing and/or play and some off lead running or gentle exploring if it is safe and possible to do so. Long training leads can be used if recall isn't good.
Toys are great for mental stimulation, stuffed Kongs or ball, Snuffle mats and puzzle toys are good ideas especially if your dog is food orientated. Lick mats allow dogs to self sooth by releasing feel good chemicals in the dog when they are using them. Leaving them with the same treat each time you leave, can set up a routine/association that although you are leaving them, you always return.
Practice leaving your dog alone in a room for short periods of time. Start with 30 seconds and build up in 30 secs increments. Leave and re-enter the room without any fuss. When you come back in, wait until they are calm and then call them over to you for praise and a treat or play. This can then be extended for longer periods of time and build up to you actually leaving the house.
Another great practice is setting up a safe retreat for your pet, if possible away from windows and doors that they can see out of. Create a covered hide, a friend of mine covered a chair with a blanket! Experiment with a cage/carrier (left unopened) covered with a sheet or blanket. You could leave an old piece of clothing or shoe with your scent on it, many dogs find that reassuring. Also leave the radio on at a low volume for company and it can cover any loud or sudden noises from outside.
Like all training it takes practice, consistency and lots of patience. Remain calm and remember the worst thing that you can do is shout at or punish your dog. They will not link this to a chewed chair leg, shredded mat or a toileting accident, it just makes them more nervous and fearful of you and they are your best friend after all!
If you and your pet need more help, get in touch with a good behaviourist who uses positive re-enforcement and praise.
If you would like help with dog walking during the day or a home care visit for your pet while they are on their own, or you're busy working from home or with the kids, just get in touch at www.thatnicedoglady.co.uk or via Facebook @thatnicedoglady. I am fully insured and Access NI certified. It can be a great way to break up the day, offers increased physical and mental stimulation as well as company, fun and cuddles!
Until next time,
P.S Tell your pet I said hi!