Let sleeping dogs lie…

The current crisis (coronavirus 19) affecting much of the world poses additional challenges to our dogs. There is, of course, a huge amount of, often conflicting, information and guidance flooding the news outlets and social media.

Do we walk our dogs, do we touch other peoples dogs, can our dogs’ contract or spread coronavirus? I’m sure you can think of many more questions. I do not have the answers to these difficult questions. However, there is one, specific area, I would offer some advice about. Clearly, our dogs home environment has changed with people working from home and whole families staying indoors.

You may suppose that your dog will be really happy that it’s humans are now in permanent attendance and in increased numbers. Got to be great for our pups, right? The reality is that many dogs are going to struggle with the new home situation.

The first point to make is that we must continue to exercise our dogs. Current government directions allow for this. It does, of course, require dog owners to apply, simple, common sense. We must keep, at least 2m between us and other people (barring family members living in the same household). Speaking as a behaviourist, I think we should allow our dogs to meet with other dogs and socialise as normally as possible.

Current, scientific advice, suggests that dogs are highly unlikely to be carriers of the virus. Although this may be the case, sensible precautions are appropriate. Personally, if I touch another dog, I am careful not to touch my face until I have thoroughly washed my hands. Of course, not allowing dogs to lick your face is important.

The home environment will have changed, as highlighted above. Dogs need times in the day where they are allowed to rest away from the increased hubbub of, potentially, increased numbers of humans in the household, particularly noisy children. Some dogs may, indeed, show some changes in behaviour such as growling at certain times when approached or touched when, normally, they would be fine. this can be seen as a dog letting us know it wants to be left alone.

Therefore, owners must make sure that their dogs have some ‘downtime’ throughout the day. How you do this will be an individual thing governed by your home conditions. However, this is important and will help your dog get used to the changing home environment. This is particularly important for dogs that have only recently entered your home, be they puppies or rescue dogs. Good luck.