Over the past few months I have been worried about the rise in opportunistic pet adoptions and ill-prepared owners getting new puppies during lockdown, potentially leading to many pets becoming a dog pound and shelter statistic.
Don’t get me wrong, I am over the moon so many dogs and cats have been fostered and adopted and our out of the dog pound and shelter environment.
However, as Australians return to workplaces and social lives start to get busy again, now more than ever, pet owners need to remember the physical, mental and social responsibility that comes with pet ownership and take measures to ensure their dog or cat becomes a dog pound or shelter statistic.
This not only includes starting obedience and independence training now, but continuing efforts to keep dog and cats mentally and physically stimulated once they are again left alone for long periods of time.
My concern isn’t exclusive to those pets that were adopted, or puppies purchased during Coronavirus lock downs either, but is also for those pets in the family home prior to the pandemic that may feel abandoned when everyone goes back to work, exacerbating any mild behavioural issues they may have already had.
This, together with financial and other strains people are feeling at this time, may also push some pet owners to the point where they just can’t cope with owning a pet anymore and leading them to surrender their pet to a dog pound or shelter, or worse, euthanise them.
It is important to remember as well that problem behaviours don’t just go away, they get worse when ignored or left untreated. So, the work needs to be done now to ensure your pet is able to cope when you start to leave them alone again, and is kept mentally and physically stimulated when left alone to help avoid common problems like separation anxiety or boredom.
To help, I have compiled mu top tips from my new book Eat, Play, Love Your Dog which aims to help keep problem behaviours at bay.
1. Daily obedience training with your dog – helps build trust and respect, offers mental and physical stimulation, gives your dog the leadership they need to help reduce stress and confusion in an uncertain world.
2. Create independence – provide them with a safe and comfortable ‘place’ in another room &/or outside and while at home create frequent separations, three to five times alone per day. Do not send in punishment, make it positive ie: give treat or long lasting chew, meal, interactive toy.
3. Meet their daily exercise needs – a tired dog is a good dog. Get into a normal walk routine now, morning and evening ideally. Allow them to stop and sniff around too as ‘scenting’ releases endorphins. Hire a dog walker or use a site like ‘Dogshare’ to find a neighbour that could help.
4. Keep their minds active – rotate 2-3 interactive toys, hide treats in a sandpit if they like to dig, or hide their kibble or treats around the back yard. These are all ways to encourage your pet to use their body and mind like they would in the wild hunting for their food. In warmer months freeze treats or meat with water in an ice container.
5. Provide a safe, calm space (and ideally access inside the home) – for many dogs with separation anxiety, simply providing them access to a room indoors can help. Ensure all dogs have a comfy kennel or space with plenty of shade from the sun/rain. Combined with tips 1-4 your dog should be happy to spend its afternoon sleeping.
About the Author: Lara Shannon is a NDTF certified dog behaviourist and trainer, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training and boarding business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of Eat, Play, Love Your Dog.