Getting Dogs Used to Normal Life After COVID-19

dogs post covid 19

Many dog owners have spent more time at home than usual during the coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Now relaxations are gradually coming into force: we are going into the office rather than working at home and to the cinema rather than the sofa in the evenings. Some dogs suffer from their owner being out of the house more frequently. We will give you tips to get your dog calmly through the period following COVID-19 isolation.

Why is the post-coronavirus period difficult for many dogs?

Dogs love spending time with their pack – you! Most people spent much more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Children study at the kitchen table rather than at school, adults work from home and long shopping trips mainly take place online. Even activities like trips to museums or cinemas were cancelled for weeks. A great time for our dogs! Most have happily got used to their human pack constantly being close by, so it can be all the more difficult when this suddenly changes. Such a transition isn't just a challenge in times of COVID-19, but also following illnesses or other changes like separations.

How do you recognise separation anxiety in dogs?

Some dogs that have problems spending time alone bark during the absence of their owners – some even howl like wolves. It's no surprise that it can lead to complaints from neighbours in the long term. Dogs that devastate homes in order to reduce their stress are also noteworthy. Other dogs suffer in silence and stare for hours at the house door without moving a millimetre. Inside they are tense, their heart beats faster and some pant. They fall asleep exhausted only when their owner comes back. If you suspect that your dog belongs to this category, it's worth purchasing a home pet camera. This allows you to see on your smartphone what your canine companion is doing at home. There are several varieties – for instance, even a camera with an integrated treat dispenser.

Preventing separation anxiety post-coronavirus

If you take precautions during COVID-19 isolation or even quarantine, you will have fewer problems with the adaptation later on. People who are at home all day apart from when they take the dog for walks spend more time with their four-legged friend. There's nothing against this! For instance, practice new tricks with your dog, work on basic obedience if need be or simply enjoy cuddling on the sofa. Nevertheless, provide specific downtime when your dog can relax on its own. Use the time at home to thoroughly clean out the cellar or storage rooms – your dog will stay away. Enjoy a pampering session in the bath – without your dog, of course. And ignore it when it asks to play in the meantime. Your dog should learn that not everything revolves around it. It also makes sense to train it to go away. Even if your dog has had no problems with this up until now, it does no harm to keep practicing.

Separation training

You're happy that the coronavirus isolation is coming to an end, but your dog is scared of being on its own? You should slowly get young dogs in particular used to the transition period. This works best by not establishing any set rituals that your dog associates with going out, because rustling keys or putting on certain shoes would then become key stimuli for your dog that would make it frightened. Integrate these key stimuli into normal day-to-day life without going outside: put on your jacket occasionally, clink your keys and sit on the sofa. Or leave your home briefly without a jacket, handbag etc. This means you avoid situations in which your dog is already consumed with fear before you go away.

golden retriever covid 19

How long can dogs stay alone?

Particularly during the first few days after coronavirus relaxations, you should start with short periods of alone time. If your dog is alone for half the day due to your work, you shouldn't also make after-work plans without your dog. The basic principle is that a dog in a flat shouldn't have to regularly stay on its own for longer than four hours per day. If there are two dogs or access to a secure garden, up to six or even eight hours per day are allowed in exceptional cases. There are naturally differences between breeds – a pack of sledge dogs can stay alone for longer than an affectionate Affenpinscher. Start with small steps when practicing staying alone, with just two minutes at the beginning and then slowly extending the period of time. A home pet camera can help here too, because ideally you will go back whilst your dog is (still) relaxed.

What has to be taken into account with puppies following the coronavirus crisis?

The formative phase is particularly important with puppies: growing dogs should get to know as much of the world as possible in the first few weeks of their life. This includes, for instance, puppy play group, tram rides and also visiting cafés and making their way through pedestrian areas. If you got a puppy just before or during the coronavirus isolation period, you won't have been able to discover much with your new family member. Register at a dog school if you want controlled contact with other young dogs. Include your puppy as quickly as possible in life beyond coronavirus isolation. If there are problems, get advice from a dog trainer. Even if you have adopted an adult dog shortly before or during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, you should take plenty of time to get it used to its new circumstances.

If required: look for a dogsitter or kennels

So your newly moved-in dog doesn't cope with time alone straight away? Look around for dog kennels or dogsitters. This is a good temporary solution and allows you to focus on training. If a dog has to be alone for hours in solitude training because you are working a lot or have commitments, this will set it back. Dog kennels can also be a solution, even when you notice that you cannot meet your dog's activity requirements at certain times. Alternatively, perhaps family members could step in for a transition period.

Summary: nine tips for dogs following the coronavirus crisis

  • Regularly integrate 'going away' key stimuli into day-to-day life
  • Slowly practice for periods of time alone
  • Calmly greet your dog when you come home
  • Don't rush back at the first bark
  • Go for a long walk before going away
  • Toys that can be filled with food distract dogs during your absence
  • Organise supervision if needed
  • With puppies: arrange socialisation and formative activities as soon as possible
  • Provide species-appropriate activity, even if you have less time.

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