‘Lockdown Life’ for Pups and older dogs……..
I’m seeing many niggly things increasing, related to lockdown, in the behavioural and training telephone one to ones I’m undertaking at the moment.
* ‘Owner attention saturation’ issues, where the dog is just tuning the owner out completely, more and more, because they just have no reason to listen, when they are with you virtually 24/7.
* Relationships crumbling because the dog is constantly out in the garden and is starting to destroy things the owner values, dig more etc.
* Barking and fence guarding is huugely on the increase. Also dogs just generally, barking, annoyingly, at every little sound (because we hear so little noise at the moment).
* Destructive dogs through lack of normal confinement.
* Overtired dogs through lack of normal sleeping patterns.
* Demanding dogs becoming more and more vocal, and using negative behaviour to seek attention.
* Puppies incredibly hard to housetrain because the back door is open 24/7 and they just don’t learn the ‘line’ between the house and the garden – Its just all ONE to them.
SO……..Lets have a look at how to take Lockdown forward ————–>>>>>>
There are lots of Pups coming home during this crazy Lockdown period. Lots of young dogs who came home just before it…. And then, all the other dogs adjusting to the different routine.
In all honesty Lockdown, for our oversocial breed, is a wonderful in one way…. And very negative in another. However the problem is when owners get those two things the wrong way around in their head.
What is GOOD about it?
Social distancing. In a nutshell.
Walking your dog and everyone avoiding you. Only occasional mishaps of incoming dogs and people. No ‘adoring’ adults walking up to you to fuss your puppy. No kids approaching to do likewise. No taking pup on the school run, ruining almost any chance of ever having calm, vaguely controlled lead and heelwork.
Owners are being *forced* to teach the pup/dog, that, YES, there are people about, yes indeed. But those people are NOTHING TO DO with the puppy/young dog. That there are other dogs around, but, again…. They are NOTHING to do with the puppy/young dog.
It’s actually, the absolute perfect win/win situation.
Also….. No-one coming round your house and IF they do, standing outside your gate, not touching your dog, and forcing the dog to learn about self control because they aren’t cuddling and fawning all over the pup.
These are super good positive self control things for the future.
Why distance/self control/a lack of fuss is GOOD for your average Labrador puppy?
I’ve written many articles, one very recently if you look on our website, on why learning self control is so, so important for a puppy/young dog, or RESCHOOLING some level of self control into an older dog.
Paraphrased, Labradors are, literally, if bought from a good breeder, already hugely genetically social as a breed. Whilst they need kindness, and love and care, they equally need to learn the rules that you, as a responsible owner, are going to want to impose later when they AREN’T 10 weeks old, cute, fluffy, and gentle. You are going to NOT wish them to see every dog, or human, they spot in a two mile radius, as *fair game* to charge up to and crave attention and entertainment from. You are NOT going to want them to ram the front door every time the bell goes, and leap all over every visitor…….
This is very hard to get through to new owners when we AREN’T in Lockdown. Its been such a pleasure to have people ‘get it’ IMMEDIATELY during, because, they literally, can’t operate the puppy/dog *any other way* right now.
Remember, what a puppy or dog never knew, it doesn’t miss. If they don’t get tons of random strangers touching and cuddling them. Maybe walking up to them, hands outstretched, to jump at on walks or at home…… they don’t miss it.
The fact is, they had PLENTY of that in the well reared litter, and its now time for that to NOT be their ‘go to’ response to every person in their present……
Many many owners of older dogs, raised to embrace oversociality, are hugely struggling right now. The dog is of course, missing charging about with other dogs on a daily basis. Leaping all over strangers. It truly believes this behaviour is normal, and the way the world works. You might call it ‘the dog’s hobby’ infact!
Owners, of course, may NOT want them to do it, but early programming that this was ‘normal’ has thrown that wish right out the window, and now, this strange, 2 metre minimum world, is frustrating and perplexing.
What is BAD about it?
Your new puppy needs, beyond all else, to be prepared for when this is NOT normality. For when a minimum of people are home every day. For when its going to be left completely because everyone is at work, at school, or out socially. Separation anxiety, and ‘various being alone disorders’ are going to be rife after this. Especially if it carries on much longer.
This isn’t easy but I would beg you to consider any or all of the following:
- Leave the puppy/young dog/older dog at home some days on your family exercise routine. Absolutely don’t all walk the dog every day, especially not multiple times….that won’t continue…… so don’t programme it as ‘normal’. Go for a walk, cycle, whatever, enjoy it, and leave Fido at home to learn that he doesn’t always have company, and that is from day ONE of him coming home.
- Put the puppy in its Crate, kennel, or quiet room, for periods during the day even when you are home. Ask children to leave it be, and don’t respond to wailing and complaining (from children OR puppy!) Ditto older pups and dogs, do this for an hour or two at LEAST once or twice a day. They need the skill set of being contained and again, ‘not part of everything all the time’. Lockdown is putting pressure on us to have them with us constantly and that is extremely negative. Go out in the garden and potter about. Go upstairs. Go read a book. Put pup/dog away when you need to do office work. Homeschool time for the kids etc etc. Its SO easy and SO overlooked.
- Put the pup/dog in your car and leave it on the drive/in a safe place you can basically see. I’m not advocating vehicles on the road, away from your home of course, BUT pop pup/dog in, (preferably of course you would be travelling it in a crate, so your interior is safe, but basically its normal place in the car – No dog should EVER be travelling loose on the back or front seats…..), and, again, pop a carrot or biscuit in, and then, with suitable ventilation, just teach it sometimes to be on its own. Don’t leave stuff in with it to entertain it for hours. If you do that it really won’t understand that the point is that its LEARNING to do nothing. To be alone and a bit bored. To GO TO SLEEP.
None of this stuff is cruel, dangerous, or teasing the dog. Its PROPER lifeskills that they absolutely need, and during lockdown, needs must to artificially create these situations.
Other Lockdown socialisation time needs:
Of course it would be nice for them to hear a few sounds, see a few sights, and lets face it, cars are still on the road. Buses. Lorries. You can still walk and sit and watch them, just as you would before. Hoovers. Mowers. Drills. Test the smoke alarm every day. Drop saucepans. And be happy, clappy and cheerful doing so.
Widely available are CD’s and youtube films with audio of all SORTS of things. Fireworks. Crashing and banging. Cars revving and backfiring. You can play these in the background if you feel they might be useful.
You can always drive to a big supermarket, park in the shade and wander about the car park watching the world go by with pup (this would be helpful for oversocial older dogs too!) The MASSIVE advantage is that people can only call to you from a distance! Perfect! No hands. No cuddles. No false impression given to the pup that they are wanted in the strangers face by being in toouching/lunging distance!
Then you can pop puppy in the car, and go do your shopping. Absolutely, again, win win as this is exactly what young dogs should be taught. Again downtime. Again isolation for a short while. Safe. Perfect.
Won’t my pup be scared of dogs, if it doesn’t have lots of good positive meetings with dogs in its early weeks?
Will he hell! The 8 weeks in a litter of puppies, plus any other dogs the breeder has, will see him through a very very long time, please trust me on this. And this is assuming he is your ONLY dog, if he has other household canine company, he’s laughing!
What WILL be positive, in addition to the self control stuff, is that he WON’T have a ton of bad experiences from grumpy dogs he meets. This is a double edged sword, as those exchanges do help teach a youngster that not all dogs want them in their face…. But not having them won’t do him any harm either, to not create unnecessary caution about certain breeds etc.
Whilst this is a difficult time for humans. It’s a seemingly idyllic time for puppies and dogs….. and they are mostly enjoying it. But PLEASE raise a puppy constantly, and recreate for an older dog life, with the thought ‘would it be like this in the *real world*?’ uppermost in your mind.
Think sideways to create ‘real world’ senarios……… But do NOT feel sorry that your pup/dog cannot constantly meet dogs to ‘play with’, and people to leap all over, and kids to mug and bite and chase…. These are HUGE negatives, and, I promise it’s a blessing that the opportunity has, mostly, been removed.
Remember – the golden rules that need teaching:
You are not part of everything in life.
Dogs and people *are* around….But aren’t any business of yours right now.
……keep these in mind, and we’ll all come out of this in one, happy, canine, piece.
Diana Stevens Lockdown April 2020