JEN CAIRNS - AAPS TRAINING SPECIALIST SHARES HER TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR DOGS BUSY
By now we are well and truly back into the swing of work and school for the new year. The summer holidays are a wonderful time, where we get out of the house more and generally spend more time with our pets.
Often, we see behaviour problems pop up with our canine friends when everyone gets back into the routine of work and school after a long time spent at home. Dogs thrive off the company of people. Therefore, many dogs find the transition from having daily company and family activities, to periods of time spent at home alone a bit difficult to adapt to.
Fear not! Here are some ideas to keep your animal family members entertained and happy until you are back together, at the end of the day.
Routine, routine, routine
It is quite incredible how perceptive dogs can be. My own dog used to know when it was a work day, by the uniform I was wearing. I used to be able to take my dogs to work with me and when I put that uniform on, his little tail would start waggling and there would be a happy bouncy little dog waiting at the front door to go on an adventure. Now that I don’t take my dogs to work with me, I noticed a shift. My once excited little dog, started following me everywhere, would bring me toys and hover by my work bag. As though he could sense I was going to leave him. What has worked for us is keeping to the same morning routine. This has made him less anxious about whether I am going to leave or not.
Get out for an early walk
Everyone is busy in the morning, but if you can spare just 10 minutes for a brisk walk with plenty of sniffing opportunities for your dog, it can work wonders. It allows your dog a chance to use their senses (sight, smell, sound etc.) and to get some of that early morning energy out. Mix it up, with a different walk here and there to keep it extra interesting.
A before work treat scatter
Again, another activity for the senses! Pop your dog outside and throw two big handfuls off delicious treats (dry food, Devon roll, ham etc.) around your backyard while you get ready for work. Watch your dog delight in using his nose to find the little bits of delicious treats. This allows your dog to use their brain and their nose, both extremely important natural behaviours for dogs. Quick Tip – the more delicious the treat, the more likely your dog will participate!
Activities and puzzles
Frozen stuffed Kong’s, puzzle toys and even automatic feeders can be a wonderful way to keep your dog’s mind busy, while also satisfying their hunger! There are so many items on the market to use for your dogs. A simple google search for home alone toys, dog puzzles and canine enrichment will give you a wealth of information and ideas. So, get googling!
Schedule some interaction
Most people must work, and many people can’t afford dog daycare. If you have a particularly energetic or lonely dog, finding a way to get a walk in or a visit during the week can be amazing. You can hire a dog walker a couple of times a week, or even find a family member to help you. For me, my mum used to visit my dogs a couple of times a week and just spend half an hour or so with them. It was enough to just break up the day into smaller amounts of alone time.
After work activities
Make sure to spend quality time with your dog when you finish for the day. A lovely long walk, some play in the backyard or at the dog park, some relaxation time together watching tv and of course a yummy dinner!
If you find that all of this isn’t helping and you think your dog might be suffering from separation anxiety, it might be time to invest in the help of a canine behaviorist. Many dogs who suffer from separation anxiety display this with negative behaviours such as chronic barking, chewing and destructive activities. But don’t panic! If your dog has separation anxiety, a reputable and caring behaviourist that uses positive reinforcement methods can help your dog get back to their happy self and enjoy their own company.