Now that we’re a few weeks into the school term after the longest summer holiday ever, it’s not only the human family members facing an upheaval. For dogs who are used to having the whole family at home, things have changed.
Carolyn Menteith, Behaviourist and Trainer for Agria Pet Insurance, offers some advice on how to help your dog cope with ‘back to school’, and remember the important skills they might have forgotten.
For the past few months, dogs have had far more social contact than usual, plenty of stimulation and quite probably a lot more walks – which was lovely for them! But, the downside of this unusual time, with its struggles of home schooling and adjustments to home working, has meant there’s been little time left to think about training the dog.
So now, with that bit more headspace, is the perfect opportunity to take time to give your dog the opportunity to remember what life before lockdown was like, and look at what might need a bit of brushing up.
Go right back to basics
Look at all the training exercises your dog already knows and practice these with some great rewards every time your dog remembers their training and gets it right. These may be as simple as sits and downs – or as important as recalls. While you might be worried that your dog has ‘forgotten’ some of their training, with plenty of rewards and only a few training sessions, they will soon remember.
Once you are happy your dog remembers the exercises, you can practice them in lots of different places and at different times – both as a training reminder but, far more importantly, to work on the relationship between you that might have taken a back seat while you have been dealing with so many demands on your time.
Is your dog feeling lonely?
Be very aware that while you may enjoy the daytime peace and quiet of having the home to yourself again, your dog might well be missing both the company and the stimulation of having people around all the time and having plenty to keep them occupied.
Take time to get out in nature and walk your dog – several times a day if possible. Play games, practice training and reconnect. When you are at home, think about interactive games you can play with your dog as well as enrichment opportunities so that they don’t feel the absence of the rest of the family too keenly.
Some more introvert canine characters however might be as glad of the peace and quiet as you might be, so be sensitive if for a while if it seems like your dog is trying to catch up on sleep. They very probably are!
If the return of the children to full time education means that you are also going back to work, be very aware that this may be very difficult for a dog who has become used to their family all being at home with them. Consider finding a dog walker or a family member or friend who can visit your dog while you are at work and take them for a walk or play games with them.
Once again, our lives have changed, but it is important that you don’t underestimate how much you need to support your dog through this change.
Back to School tips:
- Spend time reconnecting with your dog and doing things to strengthen your bond between you again after the upheavals of the summer
- Brush up on your dog’s training – and don’t forget to practice everywhere when you are out and about
- Give your dog plenty of interactive games and enrichment to prevent them getting bored after a few months of constant activity
If you are concerned with any behaviour problems, such as separation related problems, consult an accredited behaviourist who is experienced in these kinds of issues.