Dog Mental Health
Today I want to talk about dog mental health. There’s an awful lot of talk about how the current lockdown is affecting humans, but you need to take some time to think about how it affects us too. Each dog is different and it isn’t a case of us all feeling the same way. There are dogs who like their own space and quiet. I’ve never met one in our breed, but they do exist. They may be finding having the whole family at home very stressful and you humans might need to think about how you provide them with a safe quiet zone they can get away from it all. A crate in a corner of a room, with a blanket over it, can be enough – you don’t need to close the door.
As lockdown ends
My main concern is the changes that will come about as lockdown ends and you humans all start going out again. We dogs, especially our breed, like to be close to our humans. When I say close, I’m talking touching distance. Nothing could have made us happier than to have you at home all day, every day. We have loved the isolated walks. It has suited us very well not to have to meet strangers. We may not cope very well with a return to ordinary life. Let me cover those separately.
Time on our own
Remember when we were puppies and you needed to teach us how to be comfortable with time on our own? Well, now you need to do it all over again. It is a good idea, even if you are still at home almost all of the time, to have some time apart from us. I hate to say it as it isn’t what any of us wants, but that will make it easier when you have to leave the house again without us. If you have not done that, then do reintroduce time apart slowly. Please don’t expect us to cope going from you being around all the time to suddenly having to spend a couple of hours or so on our own. If you do that, you can’t be surprised if a few of us panic and take it out on the settee.
Start with just ten minutes apart, so that we know you’re coming back. Build up gradually, so we get used to a little longer at a time. You can also leave us with frozen stuffed Kongs or other toys to keep us occupied and help us not to notice the time. If you must go out for a while then take us with you, or get someone to come in to check on us. Please don’t leave us feeling abandoned, because we will panic.
Our breed is known for its wariness of strangers. The current situation has been perfect as we haven’t had to meet any. This is another where you need to reintegrate us slowly and don’t cause us too much stress. Don’t suddenly take us into a crowded situation with lots of people we don’t know. For a start you still risk catching Covid-19, but quite apart from that, we might not react well either.
Just remember, for a dog as much for a human it’s ok to not be ok. If we aren’t ok, don’t push us to keep going with the problem. Give us reassurance. Give us time. Let our stress levels come down before making us face our fears again. If all else fails, try a natural herbal remedy like Valerian.
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