If you’ve felt a bit of “cabin fever” over the past year, you’re not alone. We’re all feeling the effects of “lockdowns” and quarantines! But you might not have realized that your dog is feeling it, too. And since animals typically thrive on routine, all of these changes can trigger a bit of stress.
As the world begins to open back up, keep in mind that your pup might be out of practice, socially speaking. Over the past year, many dogs have lacked exposure to other dogs, other people, and exciting/crowded/noisy situations. So if you begin to venture out of your “pandemic routine” over the next few months, expect that your dog will need some time to adjust to new environments and people, and even other dogs.
If your dog does seem anxious when you begin to have new experiences together, various techniques can help them learn to socialize appropriately.
Start off slowly. Start off with small events, uncrowded settings, quiet places, and a limited number of new people. Gradually work your way up to greater challenges as your dog becomes more comfortable.
Some low-stress environments include walks around the neighborhood, car rides, quiet campgrounds, and visits with friends (especially those without large families or young children).
Medium-stress environments include those that are likely to include other dogs, such as the park, walks in more crowded areas, popular campgrounds, and stores (ones that allow pets, obviously).
And of course, high-stress environments will include very crowded or noisy locations, dog parks, or busy restaurant patios. For some dogs, visiting the animal hospital is also a stressful experience, especially if they haven’t been to visit us in quite some time.
Collar an understanding of leashes vs. harnesses. Observe and review a clearer understanding of what works best for your pet and you. Some dogs tug when on a leash or even slip out of collars when configured too loose. Remember the two-finger allowance for a good collar fit. Evaluate whether your pet would be safer in a harness. Small dogs’ necks are more vulnerable, and it may be a good idea to consider a harness for your little one. Larger dogs, and working dog breeds tend to tug and pull when on harnesses. There are several different types of collars, leashes and harnesses available on the market; always be observant of your dog’s comfort level when trying new control systems.
Please remember that every walk is an opportunity for bonding, and for continued training. The control systems are an extension of your in the moment communication with your pet. Train the pet to be guided by you, and not the control system.
Use treats. Use a particular treat only for new settings and reward your dog for appropriate behavior.
Take a fluid approach. If your pet seems overly anxious in a situation, call it a day and head home. The last thing you want is to force them through situations in which they feel fearful, because they will then associate social settings with negative feelings. Slow and steady is the way to go! ”