Creating Normalcy for Your Dog During COVID

Escape to normalcy, out with the dogs!

It’s a fact: there is no normal right now.

Not for you.

Not for your dog. 

Think about what you used to do with your dog. Think about what you’re doing now vs. before the stay at home requirements.

How does that differ?

How can you, with a little added time and attention, create opportunities for your dog to “feel normal?”

It’s important to optimize your dog’s routine so that “what used to be normal” continues (to the best of your ability).

Our own case in point: Cailie and the Car.

It took a long time and a lot of counter conditioning and training with Cailie as a puppy (and even into her adolescence) to help her overcome her dislike of the car because of early car sickness. I certainly don’t want her to lose the comfort that was so hard to gain! 

We work from home and while our home/work life hasn’t changed drastically, we have to adhere to the stay at home orders. That means we’re not leaving the house by car very often.

A few days ago, I made a commitment to take Cailie for a short car ride a few times each week.

It’s definitely needed.

A month ago, she happily hopped into her crate in the car. A few days ago, she would not. Thankfully, with a little coaxing in the moment, we were successful.

Cailie’s hesitation to get in the car made it apparent to me that her former comfort in the car had diminished.

Now it’s time to find ways to take short car ride while she’s enjoying a stuffed Kong and other car rides that end in fun experiences for her. 

With that goal in mind, yesterday we headed out of the house again and enjoyed a fun time at the Murphy Riverwalk which is a meandering path that follows the Valley River. It was a joy for me to say Hello and wave at people from a distance and Cailie left no bush, no grass and no tree unsniffed!

It takes a bit of creativity to think of places to visit with Cailie during this pandemic, but with a little effort it’s possible. The new sights and sounds are enriching for me and the sniff walk is fabulous mental stimulation for her.

It’s evident Cailie enjoyed the Riverwalk!

Ideas for you and your dog:

If your dog loves car rides, then make it a point a few times a week to drive to a new area of your town. The new scenery will be good for you and your dog.

If you’re limited to walking in your own neighborhood, walk the opposite direction than your normal route. Choose entirely different neighborhood areas to walk in.

If you’re in an urban environment and unable to do daily walks with your dog, then enrichment to the rescue!

Mental stimulation is key for your dog, especially in times where there’s no ability to give a dog physical enrichment.

You can enhance your dog’s day with a variety of interactive food toys. Here are a few ideas:

The Muffin Tin Game

Cailie demos the Muffin Tin Game

The Find It Game

Searching for a toy is fabulous brain work for your dog!

On your mark, get set, Snuffle!

Creating opportunities for your dog to snuffle for food is an excellent way to provide mental stimulation during times when you can’t get out of doors.

Bosco loves sticking his little hound nose into the soft felt pockets of this 72 pocket flower/veggie/herb planting bag.

If you’re like us, there’s always a box laying around from a home delivery. They make excellent, inexpensive items to use for enrichment activities for your dog. The items shown here are sturdy cardboard inserts. Each one has several little pockets and crevices to hide treats creating perfect, free puzzle toys!

Now that you’re home and confined with your dog, you may be noticing things your dog is doing that really bug you. Make a list of those things and consider with you’d like your dog “to do” instead. Then you can focus on a training goal for the “top of the list” issue.

Consider your dog’s life from their point of view.

What is it your dog may need help with right now? Set a training goal and begin working slowly toward it. Or set a goal for an excursion outside your home. The new surroundings will be good medicine for you and your dog.

If you need help, reach out to us! We can help you prioritize your goals and get started making progress with our dog to bring about some peace of mind.

Whether it’s finding a way to keep your dog quiet during at-home conference calls and Zoom sessions or optimizing your routine to prevent separation anxiety in your dog as your life starts to return to normal, we’re here for you. Just click on the “Book Now” button on our virtual training page.

Setting a goal gives me a sense of purpose.

My training goal for Cailie and the Car has already given me a sense of purpose. It’s something “to do” that provides some semblance of normalcy, for me and for Cailie.

Taking action will help you and your dog find some semblance of normalcy. Happy Training!

Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities and distance consults for clients, dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S. and Europe. www.coldnosecollege.com

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