It’s no surprise that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people got dogs. Being home all day by themselves, dogs seemed to be the perfect antidote for their isolation and loneliness. People had plenty of time and nowhere to go and many new puppies and dogs that came into people’s lives during the pandemic got used to 24-hour attention and being walked multiple times a day.
This year is a bit different. Even though this pandemic seems to be lingering longer than many would have expected, a lot of offices and places of employment have been opening up causing people to have to leave their home to go back to work in offices. Unfortunately, nobody told their dogs that their daily routine would be changing too.
It’s important to remember that dogs were initially developed to have different jobs alongside humans. Even breeds that were bred to be strictly companions were meant to spend all day with their humans. Dogs thrive on routine and they learn to expect certain rituals. Morning walk followed by breakfast followed by a nap. Afternoon walk in the park followed and then nap and then dinner. When that routine becomes interrupted, a lot of dogs can become confused, frustrated and bored. A bored dog will make his own fun and with you out of the house and unsupervised.
As a result, bored dogs will become mischievous and sometimes destructive chewing furniture and your favorite shoes, shredding expensive pillows, or sometimes soiling in the house. They will do whatever they can find to pass the time and because you’re not there to stop them, it’s even more exciting.
After you’ve been given notice of going back to work, you should slowly try to shift your dog’s everyday routine to align more closely with your new schedule, preferably over at least a week or two. Like everything else, transitions will be a lot smoother if one takes the time to plan ahead. Try to adjust your dog’s housebreaking schedule and give time to provide the most quality time with your dog.
When you’re not at work, the hours spent with your dog should be stimulating. Talk to your veterinarian ahead of time to see just what exercise your dog can do. Small companion dogs may do well with just shorter walks whereas terriers or some of the working and herding breeds would benefit from active exercise in a fenced in area and playing chase the ball or flying disc or even tug of war on those dogs with fully developed adult teeth. Make the walks interesting. Take an alternate route. Let your dog stop to smell the roses or the shrubs.
TOYS AND MENTAL STIMULATION
Give your dog mental stimulation beyond physical activity. One of the best ways to prevent boredom is to find activities and exercises that mimic what they were bred to do. Many dogs but especially hounds and terriers love to play with puzzle toys or toys with peanut butter hidden inside. Squeaky toys are great only when supervised because in my experience, to many dogs have chewed and swallowed the squeaker inside them. There are snuffle mats that have fabric flaps and loops that hide kibble or treats for your dog to sniff out. Even putting dog food in a slow feeder bowl or food releasing puzzle releasing toys to keep your dog occupied for a little bit longer. By the way, dogs don’t only love expensive toys. Sometimes, a dog is just as happy playing with empty gallon water jugs, empty cardboard boxes or empty dog food bags!
Consider signing up for dog training classes. Basic dog training instills good manners to your dog and helps to make them better companions and members of your community. If you haven’t done so already, consider finding a local certified training center to obtain AKC’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) award, a series of 10 basic commands. The CGC certification is a gateway to other avenues for you and your dog such as therapy dog certification classes, trick dog, rally and the exciting agility classes.
THERE IS HELP OUT THERE
Thankfully these days, most areas have local day care facilities that can provide supervised care for working dog owners or dog walkers or sitters that can come once or twice per day or even stay while you’re gone. Even family members or friends may be able to help. However, many day cares facilities have strict health requirements for entering dogs with proof of current vaccinations and negative fecal exams so check with each facility about their specific requirements. These days, many day care facilities may have waiting lists for new puppies or dogs just like getting kids into the right school, so plan ahead!
The AKC is here to help owners with questions and concerns about COVID-19 and dogs. Find answers to your questions, plus at-home activity ideas, training tips, educational resources, and more on our Coping With COVID-19 hub.