Ask Wendy: Maintaining Normal For Our Dogs

Wendy DeCarlo of D.O.G. (Dog Obedience Group) shares her insight and concrete suggestions for helping our pups through their stress — and ours! — during stay-at-home and the stress of life with COVID. When Rex’s Place is open, Wendy offers group and private training at our facility, and we look forward to her return when it is safe to do so. Meanwhile, you can contact Wendy with your questions by email.

There is no doubt about it, these are trying times for everyone. Our dogs included.

I’m receiving a lot of inquiries from dog owners about strategies to help their dogs once we go back to some type of normal life.

For many of us, our dogs have experienced their humans working at home for over a month now. More walks, runs and exercise became normal. Dogs likely enjoy all of the extra daytime company. Reports of dogs becoming clingier, attention seeking, and increased barking are common. Owners are worried about separation anxiety issues when they return to their jobs.

I say, embracing change is a good thing!

Routine = Normal

The best advice I give owners is to keep a routine that involves some type of normal. Safety in mind, owners can go out for a walk without their dogs. Small increments of away time are important. This lets your dog know that sometimes they need to be alone. Mealtime and potty schedules should be maintained. While you work from home, if your dogs are interfering with work, use your crates or baby gate them out of the room. One of the most underused pieces of equipment inside the house is a leash. Leashes can keep dogs under control and calm. If you need that kind of peace, try putting their leash on and keeping them near you. Place a bed next to you and give a nice chew item.

Work Out: Body and Mind

Wendy working with 2 German Shepherd pups on the floor

Engaging dogs physically and mentally is key!

Exercise, both physical and mental – anyone who has worked with me knows physical exercise is only one part of a well exercised dog. Mental exercise is even more valuable. When you have a work break, think about teaching something new and fun.
Teach a trick, taking several days or more to get to the goal.
Play hide and seek, teaching them to find a treat or a toy.
Create a simple obstacle course that you teach your dog to negotiate. Use items you already have on hand – boxes, buckets, brooms, ladder. Using these obstacles, teach your dog to weave around things, climb over safe items, sit inside a box.
Games and toys that teach dogs to work for their food or treats come in really handy.
Tug-and-release is a great energy burner with responsiveness for the release. Food-stuffed frozen Kong toys can be used to feed portions of your dog’s meals or given as a fun treat when you need to occupy them.
Massage all parts of your dog’s body to include their ears, face, and paws. Teaching dogs to be calm when you check out various parts of their bodies is great husbandry.
Work on your recalls—coming when called. Inside, in your yard, out on a walk. Call them, praise them, reward them for nice responses.
Fetch – teach your dog to go after a toy and bring it back.
Follow me game — as your dog is following you, drop a treat next to you telling them to get it. Walk away. As your dog comes to follow you repeat the drop treat and get it. You will begin see your dog look, follow, find you each and every time.
While outside walking – begin to teach your dog that social distancing is fun. They see a dog or person, increase your distance and give a treat. If your dog continues looking at you, treat again. Once the distraction has passed, resume your walk.
Rex’s Place daycare has been deemed an essential business. If you’re working and it is financially affordable during this time, send your dog for daycare. Curbside only, no human contact.

Need more guidance?

There is so much you can do with your dog. “Ask Wendy” is commonplace in my neighborhood and with the rescues I work with. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions, problems or need advice. Phone/email/video/FaceTime help is always available. [email protected]