As lockdown gradually eases, here’s how you can help your dog get used to the changes, including seeing people wearing masks in public.
Spending more time with your dog during lockdown will have had a positive effect on both your emotional wellbeing and theirs. You’ll have enjoyed more time to bond, improved on their training, learnt new tricks and got some extra cuddles and walks in too.
That’s changing now. Here’s our expert advice on supporting dogs as lockdown eases, from reintroducing them to their friends to dealing with people wearing masks.
Make sure your dog gets plenty of rest
Dogs thought Christmas had come early at the start of lockdown. Now, though, the novelty of having their humans at home full-time has worn off and dogs are, well, dog-tired.
‘Dogs love routine and when this is disturbed, this can lead to behavioural problems,’ animal behaviourist Carol Clark explains. ‘Most dogs use their time alone to sleep, with the average adult dog snoozing for 12 to 14 hours a day, but with a houseful, this hasn’t been possible.
‘When over-tired, dogs can become crotchety and lethargic and might seem grumpy or forgetful. Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system too, so it’s important to give dogs quiet time so they can rest.’
Prepare for scary new things, like face masks
Many people are now using face coverings, and this might look strange or scary to your dog. Reassure them that there’s no need to worry by associating masks with something good – food!
Put the mask on the floor for your dog to explore and sniff, then hold it in your hand and give your dog treats, one after another. Hold it over your lower face and continue to treat your dog. Put it on while happily chatting to your dog and feeding them treats.
Let your dog see you in your mask at home and then on walks. Keep treats handy, point out people in masks and feed your dog a treat each time.
Plan ahead to ease separation anxiety now
In May, our Petplan survey found that 48% of owners were worried about separation anxiety as things get back to normal.
It makes sense to start now to help your dog cope with more time home alone:
- Organise your dog’s day, with time apart, play time and exercise
- Provide a comfy bed or den for them to relax in and a treat or toy to occupy them while you go to the other side of the room
- Give them an extra treat for settling down
- Gradually increase the distance you move away from your dog and the time you wait before returning, ensuring your dog stays relaxed, and
- If there’s any sign of distress, leave them for a shorter period.
Consider a pet monitor camera connected to your smartphone to keep an eye on them.
Ease your pet back to school
Will your dog be returning to daycare or adventures with a dog walker? Reintroduce them to this gently to avoid overwhelming them with excitement.
If you plan to use a dog walker or daycare facility when you return to work, start with a weekly walk or visit now. It will help your dog and family adapt to time apart.
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Celebrate the positives of lockdown
Have you used lockdown to train your dog and teach them new tricks?
Many owners have reported a positive change in their dogs, including them being less anxious, more settled and more confident. It has provided time for them to focus on training with fewer distractions like people, traffic and other dogs bounding over.
Some have been able to overcome problems they may have had before. Keep up with your training so you can carry over all the positives you and your dog have learnt into the new normal.
Prevent unwanted behaviours
If your dog has enjoyed the quiet time and is starting to react to life getting busier again, try a walk early in the morning and late at night when fewer people and dogs are around and summer temperatures are cooler. Look to reward appropriate, calm behaviour with attention, treats or play.
Concerned about any unusual behaviour? It’s best to check with your vet.
Get the whole family’s support
It’s natural for our hearts to warm when we see the bond that children and animals share, particularly after months together.
Aileen Stevenson, a dog trainer and Family Paws Parent Education specialist, says it’s important that dogs don’t become reliant on that level of interaction. ‘Gradually begin to structure your routine so it’s similar to your new normal day, with regular times for meals and walks.
‘Settle your dog with a stuffed toy or a chew in a separate room while the kids watch a movie or do schoolwork. Doing this gradually avoids sudden and drastic changes in routine, which some dogs and children may struggle to cope with.’
We work in partnership with the UK's animal charities and have seen first-hand the devastating impact Covid-19 is having on their income and the vital funds needed to support the animals in their care. For over 30 years we have been providing 4 weeks free insurance for rehomed pets and giving 10% of rescue pet premiums back to animal charities. In June, to help support animal charities through the Covid-19 crisis we paid over £700,000 in funds that our partners would have received from us in the next 6 months now, in one lump sum, to help them get through the pandemic.