So, we are in the midst of a pandemic, and most people are under a stay-at-home order. Some of us are actually ill with the virus we’re trying to slow the progression of with the stay at home orders. If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you have a dog, or you’re at least interested in dogs and dog behavior. Many trainers are running Pandemic Puppy classes, How to Shut Your Dog Up When You’re in a Zoom meeting classes, Extra Enrichment to Keep Your Dog Busy classes, and How to Prepare Your Dog for When You Go Back to Work classes. I have a question, though, is your dog getting enough rest?
You heard correctly, Is your dog getting enough rest? The average adult dog sleeps 12 to 14 hours of the average 24 hour cycle. Puppies sleep 18 to 20 hours of that (unfortunately, not always the same hours that the humans would like to be sleeping!). I understand that we humans are home and bored, and want to spend “quality time” with our dogs, and that’s wonderful. But are we wearing them out, and getting on their nerves? How many hours a day are you normally gone to work? What do you think your dog is doing during that time? Unless he or she goes to doggie daycare, where there is likely structured playtime with a structured nap schedule, he or she is probably sleeping. Getting up to walk the perimeter, swear at the squirrel outside the window, woof at the mail carrier, get a drink, then circling around to lie back down and snooze.
So, if your dog op puppy is a little testy, maybe getting into more things that you would normally expect, barking more at the door and windows, chewing things he or she ought not be chewing, he or she may be overtired. If you’re a parent of human children, or ever babysat for human children, you may remember that toddlers are the classic example of this. They play, play, play, then melt down, have a tantrum, explode. Then they fall asleep. Dogs and puppies are much the same. It’s great that you want to walk the dog. But maybe not six times a day, when you’d normally go for a short walk in the morning, and a longer one after work. It’s fine for you to go for a walk six times a day, just leave the dog home to rest for four of those!
It may seem a bit counterintuitive, but if you really want to prepare your dog for when you go back to work, try to keep a routine like you would in the time that you go to work. Get up in the morning, feed and walk the dog, have some play time, as you might in your normal day. Leave the dog as you would to go to work, only you may just be going into another room to work. If you have a Zoom call, try to schedule a play session with the dog, and give them a stuffed kong or a great chew, put them in the crate, if they normally stay there when you are gone, and go to your meeting. Take a walk outside, without the dog. Practicing being away, even if it’s for shorter periods, is going to lend a little bit more of a sense of normalcy to your dogs day.
I understand that you want to take advantage of this time at home to build a better relationship with your dog, and that is fantastic! But don’t be that person who wants to move in after the first date! Your dog is going to help you stay sane through this by keeping you on your schedule, by reminding you to rest, and keeping you company. You should definitely work on training skills or tricks or an online class if you want to, just keep it to a reasonable amount of time, Take a half hour twice a day for extra training. Or better yet, schedule a slot of time that you will be able to continue utilizing for training once you return to work. Building that into your schedule and building that as a habit will serve both you and your dog better over time.
So don’t feel bad that you aren’t engaging with your dog every moment of your time at home! Set a time for training, plan some enrichment for when you need to be left alone to work, and don’t forget to snuggle up and watch Netflix and eat popcorn with your dog!