If your schedule hasn’t been affected by COVID-19, aka Coronavirus, then you are in the minority. We have many friends who are trying to figure out new schedules for themselves, their employees, and their children.
But what about your dog?
Many folks won’t realize that these changes may be affecting their dog until a negative behavior begins or occurs. Dogs love structure and schedules, so as you make your plans for creating a new normal over the next few weeks, don’t forget to include the dog!
We’re all basically on two weeks of “crate rest” – so don’t forget to give your dog crate rest*, too! Most adult dogs sleep 12-14 hours a day. Puppies under 10 months old need to be closer to 18-20 hours! When we disrupt our normal schedules, it is very easy for our dogs to miss out on their normal nap times and rest periods and become anxious, grumpy, or otherwise off their normal.
You have permission to crate your dog even if you are working from home.
Let me say that again – you have permission to crate your dog even if you are working from home.
If your dog is struggling with finding a new normal, help him out by keeping his sleep pattern as close to his previous normal as you can. Schedule naps, play, training, and feeding times. You’re the human – it’s your job to advocate for your dog and help him navigate your world. And sometimes, that means putting him down for a nap whether he likes it or not.
I can already hear some folks saying, “But my dog goes crazy if I crate him while I’m home!” This is exactly why we encourage our clients to practice utilizing their crate for a variety of circumstances and at different times of the day. Normally, we encourage this habit because of the potential of a medical reason on the dog’s part for unexpected crate rest (kennel cough, surgery, pulled muscles, etc), but today, we can add “just in case you get stuck working from home during a pandemic” to the list.
If your dog struggles with being crated while you’re home, try some of the following:
- Begin feeding your dog his meals in his crate.
- Make sure your dog is getting adequate exercise – we’re talking planned and purposeful exercise, not just “walking around and barking at birds out the window.” Go for a walk (6 ft way from other humans, of course), play structured fetch, paper plate recall, or any number of other structured activities that use both your dog’s body and brain. (Your training homework can also count here – hint, hint!)
- Cover the crate – for some dogs, seeing everything going on outside the crate is just too hard and they settle better with a blanket over the kennel.
- If covering the crate isn’t helping, move the crate to a central location so you can provide feedback more easily – treats and/or release from the crate for good/quiet behavior, verbal reminders or crate pops for poor behavior. Rinse and repeat in small increments.
- Allow the dog to have special edibles or toys while in the crate – and in the crate only! Make the crate a desirable place to be. (Please be sure to only provide edibles or toys that are safe, especially for unsupervised use.)
To be clear, the concept of making sure your dog has adequate rest applies in a wide variety of circumstances, not just during a pandemic.
The nature of our work and schedules means that our dogs, Tucker and Ellie, are very accustomed to having a slightly different schedule most days. At the moment, however, we are practicing down time and crate rest because we have ended up with a foster dog in the house. Even at 9 years old, this dog needs the rest and downtime because she was an only child until three days ago. As she navigates her new world, new people, new siblings, it’s important to be sure that we aren’t asking her to do all of that with a low battery. So right now, as I write this, she’s crated and her crate is covered to encourage her to take some deep breaths, nap a little, and give her space to process. She’s doing well so far, but it’s our job to be sure that we do everything we can to set her up for success.
*If your dog is able to rest well without a crate, modify the advice to fit a dog who can rest on his “place” or in a particular area of your home.