It’s no surprise that many people got dogs during the COVID-19 pandemic. When people were 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 dogs that came into people’s lives during the pandemic got used to constant attention and being walked multiple times a day.
This year is a bit different. Even though this pandemic seems to be lingering longer than we expected, a lot of offices have been reopening.
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 learn to expect certain rituals. Morning walk followed by breakfast followed by a nap. Afternoon walk in the park and then nap and then dinner. When that routine is interrupted, a lot of dogs can become confused, frustrated and bored. A bored dog will make his own fun.
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 for them.
After you’ve been given notice of going back to work, slowly try to shift your dog’s everyday routine to align more closely with your new schedule, preferably over the course of at least a week or two. Try to adjust your dog’s housebreaking schedule.
When you’re not at work, the hours spent with your dog should be stimulating. Talk to your veterinarian ahead of time to see exactly what sort of 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 (for dogs with fully developed adult teeth). Make walks interesting. Take an alternate route. Let your dog stop to smell the roses or the shrubs.
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 dogs are supervised, because I know that many dogs have chewed and swallowed the squeaker inside them. There are snuffle mats with fabric flaps and loops that hide kibble or treats for your dog to sniff out. Consider putting dog food in a slow-feeder bowl or food-releasing puzzle toy 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 and helps 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 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.
GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT
Most areas have local day care facilities that can provide supervised care for working dog owners, or dog walkers or sitters who 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, with proof of current vaccinations and negative fecal exams, so check with each facility about 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.
(Dr. Jerry Klein is the American Kennel Club's chief veterinary officer.)©2021 American Kennel Club. Visit at akc.org. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC