Who let the dogs out?
I know that you probably are getting sick of hearing about Covid 19, I know I am. Unfortunately it seems to be here to stay and the knock-on effects of the disruptions caused to our lives by the lockdowns are being seen in many different ways. As a Dog Trainer I am seeing more and more under socialized dogs, these are pups which were adopted or purchased during the lockdowns when people were stuck at home and had nothing but free time on their hands. Unfortunately many of these dogs have never been exposed to real life events and now that the lockdowns are lifting they are finding the new lifestyle quite challenging.
Imagine things from the pups point of view, they were brought into the home at quite a stressful and uncertain time for most people. How long was lockdown going to last? Do I have to wear a mask for the rest of my life? Am I going to be paid? Can I work from home? How am I going to pay the bills? When will I be able to see my family and friends again? These questions and many others were flying through peoples heads. The new pup made a great distraction from what was going on in life. They were showered with attention, there was always someone at home with them, they wanted for nothing. Then the lockdowns started lifting, children went back to school, people went back to the work place and these pups now found themselves living a whole other life, home alone, limited attention, different noises and distractions outside and out on walks meeting other under socialized dogs. This was and is incredibly confusing, frightening and frustrating for these pups. They didn't know how to handle it so behavioral problems began to develop such as barking and vocalizing, destroying things around the home, aggression towards anything or anyone new or unknown, fear of anything strange including sounds and lunging and barking at other dogs to name a few.
How to deal with these unwanted behaviours, some owners chose to live with them and hope they resolve themselves, so the pup is never left at home alone or he will destroy the place or bark incessantly, he joins the Midnight Walkers Club and is either walked really early in the morning or very late at night in the hopes that you won't come across any other dogs which would result in a screaming lunging mess on the the end of your lead. Unfortunately dogs will always do what dogs have done, so if Fluffy only knows that when he sees another dog he responds by lunging and barking then this is want he is going to do time and time again, well at least until he is taught another response to the situation. These owners often catch themselves making many excuses to justify their pups embarrassing behaviours, "He has never seen a big black dog before, so he barks at them", "He gets jealous when I go to work so he chews my sofa and scratches the doors", "He doesn't come back when I call him because he spent so much time in the house during lockdown and now he likes to go exploring" and so on and so on.
Some frustrated owners turn to Dr Google to solve their pups problems, unfortunately many of the training tips found online fail to work or in some cases they make the situation even worse. Dogs are individuals and something which may have worked for one dog may not necessarily work for another.
These poor stressed out owners are given advice from all kinds of people, just take a lunging barking dog for a 15 minute walk along the riverside in Portimao and you will be given all kinds of advice on how to fix him. Things like tell him who's boss, spray water on him, rattle a bottle of stones in his face or my all time favourite kick him with your heel in his ribs!!!!! Really?? This is your friend, your companion, you got him with the intention of making his life better not worse.
So if you are the owner of one of these Lockdown Dogs or Covid Pups then what should you do? Well first things first. Breathe, most behavioural struggles can be overcome and always remember you are the best owner for your dog.
Don't rely on Dr Google, or Uncle Jack's friend who had a dog 19 years ago with the same problem or random strangers for advice, but rather contact a Qualified Dog Trainer or Canine Behaviourist, I mean you wouldn't send your child to an unqualified teacher for their education or have your appendix removed by an unqualified surgeon so why would you seek or even listen to advice from an unqualified trainer?
We live in the times of the 1 click wonder, we expect things to happen instantaneously at the push of a button, we seem to have run out of patience, our tolerance of frustration is low, we want it and we want it NOW!! Unfortunately with dogs and behaviour change there are no quick fixes, you have to be committed to put the work in and you will be amazed at the rewards you will get back. The absolute joy of walking your ex lunging barking dog past another dog and having him being completely focused on you. Or that fantastic feeling of calling your dog and having him flying back to your side with a massive smile on his furry face because he thinks you are way more sexy than the environment.
I urge you the owners of these dogs please take the first step to a NEW dog, contact a Qualified Trainer and let us help you to help your pup become the dog you can be proud of. One of the main reasons that dogs are surrendered to animal shelters all over the world is due to behavour problems, let's help prevent this by putting the effort in, having fun with your dog and building an amazing relationship between the two of you.
Gail SkinnerAwesome-Dogs.com(00351) 917758404