It’s just as important to establish a routine with your dogs. As I mentioned in a previous blog, they are delighted to have us at home and, if we let them, they will try to appropriate us solely for themselves. But, no matter how much we love our dogs and kids, all of us need space to breathe, recharge the batteries, and to focus occasionally on ourselves.
If we allow our dogs to encroach completely, we’ll be storing up problems when life goes back to normal. If we’re not careful, we’ll suddenly find our dogs can’t live without us and they become emotionally insecure in our absence, and needy for our undivided attention.
To avoid this, establish a few ground rules:
Your dog has a walk or even two at certain times each day. After that, he goes into bed/crate to settle or takes advantage of beautiful spring days outside for a while.
During that time, everyone leaves him alone so he has no distractions and he learns to be on his own. Remember that old saying: Let sleeping dogs lie! Adopt it as a house rule.
If you already have a ‘needy’ dog, practice your own ‘physical distancing’. Close the door behind you, when you walk out of a room so your dog can’t follow you everywhere. Only return to the room if your dog is quiet. And don’t make a big fuss of him on your return.
Some dogs want your attention all the time. So they nudge you, jump up, demand to sit on your lap, bring their toys over for you to play with them, whine or bark at you. Any of those behaviours sound familiar? Suddenly, you feel overwhelmed by all the attention because you also have to see to the demands of family members permanently at home too. Everybody wants a piece of you!
When your dog does any of the above behaviours, avert your eyes from him and ignore until he stops. Just say ‘Good’ and carry on with whatever you’re doing.
Remember, dogs are pretty clever. Any behaviour that isn’t acknowledged by you isn’t worth doing! However, if you keep telling your dog ‘No’ or ‘Stop’, he now has your attention. It may be negative attention but it’s still what he wanted!
By ignoring your dog, you keep your cool and your blood pressure down. Apart from those important things, it’s a more powerful way of getting the desired behaviour.
However, call your dog over at other times (not when he’s asleep!) and make a big fuss of him or give him a game. You’ve started the behaviour and it means more to you and him because you really want to give him attention rather than him demanding it. Apart from the learning curve for your dog, constant demands for attention are extremely stressful. After a while you’ll lose patience and snap. Your dog reacts by looking hurt; you feel guilty, and the whole activity begins all over again!
It’s important to find a happy balance so that you and your dog can enjoy each other!