While current research hasn’t shown that our pets can get this strain of the COVID19 virus, they are affected by it in other ways nonetheless. Let’s look at the two main aspects of their lives that have changed during this pandemic.
First, and foremost, the daily household routines have all changed. Family members who normally leave the house to go to daycare, school, or work are mostly staying home, but it’s not like the weekend either. There are no friends or other family coming over to visit, and mom & dad are parked at their computer saying something about trying to work.
With the humans all at home, the fur kids who normally nap all day now find themselves unable to do so. For others who were used to seeing a dog walker or going to dog daycare, that routine may have stopped. And for still others, walks in the neighbourhood and/or trips to the dog park suddenly are a new frequent thing.
Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but as with humans, some dogs handle a change in routine better than others. In general though, all of us breathe a little easier when we know somewhat how our days will unfold. The best way to alleviate the stress of change is to create a new normal. With regards to the fur kids, this would be by maintaining a schedule of at least, when feeding time is, when potty breaks are, and when their main daily exercise time is. For young fur kids, add in also a designated undisturbed nap time for proper growth and development.
A basic schedule of just these activities will re-establish some sense of structure and expectation for your pet. This will help in light of the second biggest change in their lives- the general mood in the home. This pandemic has created an atmosphere for all of us that is heavily ladened with worry, uncertainty, frustration, fear, and even anger. Most fur kids will pick up on these emotions- particularly those very tuned into their people.
The impact of the negative energy of these feelings on our pets is a sense of unease. This usually results in one of three outcomes- overprotectiveness, misbehaviour, and/or nervousness. Shy and/or insecure dogs will likely display anxious and nervous behaviour in the face of change, especially when coupled with an atmosphere of unease. Confident, purposeful dogs will try to take control of the situation by trying to assume the leadership role. Most fur kids will know that their people are not on their game and will typically use this opportunity to push rules and boundaries.
The solution for keeping everyone on an even keel is of course for the humans to be in a calm confident state of mind, even if they have to fake it. Dogs are very intuitive to emotion and energy- it’s all they know, so the faking has to be top notch. This is not really a bad thing as dwelling on negative energy is counterproductive. Ironically, spending quality time with your fur kid is one of the best ways to get into a present focused, positive frame of mind.
The following are some ideas of activities to do at home with your fur kid as part of your new normal routine that still provide enrichment, exercise, and discipline:
The result of these activities is not only quality time with your fur kid, but the strengthening of your bond through respect and trust. Be creative, be consistent, make it fun, and when your fur kid does things just to please you, your relationship has reached a new level. As tempting as it may be, try to avoid the pitfall of responding to this unsettling time with just an abundance of treats and smothering loving. The best thing we can do for both ourselves and our fur kids to successfully navigate through this troubling time is to maintain a sense of purpose and optimism by having new goals and making the best of each day.