Coronavirus and your pets

We live in a very stressful time right now, one that no one in our lifetime has ever experienced before. Not only are people “sheltered in place” to help ‘flatten the curve” and stop the spread of this new virus that has killed thousands of people already, but they are home day and night with their children, both two or four-legged.

This change in routine is not always easy on humans, but pets who rarely see their owners all day are usually pretty happy about it. I already work at home and have since 2015, so there are no strange changes for my two cats. But dogs tend to be a bit more clingy to their owners and when this all lifts and we go back to work somewhere other than our bedroom, there will be changes that might be harder for our Pups to deal with.

There are ways to help make the transition easier for them, and while we might not be able to start implementing them now, here are some tips for later that might help.

1. First of all, keep routines the same as they were before you were home 24/7. In other words, feed your pets at the same time, take them for walks at the same time and don’t alter feeding or playtimes by too much. Dogs are great at keeping us out of a rut of not taking off our PJs until 2 pm, so make sure you keep up all routines, including when to give them their monthly heartworm/Flea and Tick medications, etc.

2. Make your weekend routines the same as your weekday ones and that will give your dog a consistent signal to what they can expect. Even if you aren’t leaving on Saturday morning, hearing the coffee brewing or taking a shower then taking them for a walk, (or visa versa)keeps things constant in their world. Remember, at the risk of sounding cliche and schmaltzy, your dog might just be a part of your world, but you truly ARE the whole world to your dog. That is, until they spot the squirrel outside that taunts them daily through the window.

3. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise at the same time each day. If you can’t get out of bed early enough to walk your dog, maybe you need a cat. But seriously, making that walk at the same time each morning again keeps things in a consistent mode for your dog, whether or not you are there the rest of the day.

4. If your dog has gotten used to walks every four or five hours, what’s going to happen when that’s not an easy option? Can you come home to walk the dog? Will you hire a dog walker, or take your dog to doggie daycare? Start planning for this now. Don’t wait until a day before you go back to work!

5. Figure out how you’re going to engage your dogs’ brain if the level of physical exercise you are currently providing it is not an option. You can teach them new tricks, or try new walking routes, which engages their brains because dogs will work to analyze new smells. Even if it’s just once or twice a week, pop your dog in the car and go somewhere different.

6. Look for Troubling Behavior — But Don’t Punish

*Dogs with separation anxiety may go to the bathroom in the house, or chew or rip up things that are not their toys. But don’t punish the dog when you come home, said Katherine A. Houpt, professor emeritus of behavior medicine at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, because dogs will forget what they did and by then they will “no longer associate punishment with the action.”

Your dog may also get clingy and follow you around the house, pace when it thinks you’re leaving or drool. That also means the dog is experiencing separation anxiety and you need to work a little bit more to help it.

If you are frustrated or feel like nothing is working, reach out for help. Call your veterinarian to make sure that nothing is physically wrong with your dog. If it is behavioral, then your veterinarian may recommend calling a dog trainer or animal behaviorist. Dr. McConnell said to look for a certified applied animal behaviorist or a certified professional dog trainer. Trainers should use positive reinforcement instead of force and coercion.

Your veterinarian may also recommend anti-anxiety medication for your dog, if the anxiety persists despite making the recommended changes. You may also consider anti-anxiety medications if your dog’s behavior is causing harm even if it’s not destructive — such as if your dog’s barking is annoying your neighbors to an extreme degree.

7. Dog toys are a great way to keep your dog happy while on his own. The best dog toys will challenge your canine friend and keep him or her occupied all day. Toys with food inside of them are especially recommended. If your dog gets bored with new toys quickly, consider joining a monthly subscription box service such as BarkBox.

You might also want to consider giving your dog chew treats that will take them a significant amount of time to get through – like kong/peanut butter treats or bully sticks. Dogs should also always have access to water throughout the day. If you aren’t around to change your dog’s water periodically, consider an automatic dog waterer to keep water flowing and fresh.

This too shall pass, but you need to start preparing your dog for this now, today. Don’t wait until you get a call back to work. The time you put into getting your best friend ready now will pay off in huge dividends once you are back to bring home the bacon, or dog treats!

* Excerpts from