These are uncertain times for all of us. Having some downtime can be nice, but it can also be stressful. Our dogs are surely over the moon to have us home all day, but they’re also probably feeling our anxiety as we navigate through the days, weeks and months of a global pandemic. So… why not invest some of this time in training your dog and bonding with them? We get it, you’ve probably been putting dog training on the back burner for when you have more time. Well, here’s your chance. Your dog will be thrilled to have your undivided attention, and you’ll benefit from their good behavior. Here are a few tips as you embark on your training journey.
Quarantine Walking Tips
Does your dog pull on the leash or react strongly when seeing another dog or animal?
Taking your dog for a walk should be an enjoyable experience for both of you. Here’s our top 5 tips:
- Use a short leash –Stick to 4-6 foot leash for your dog. A long leash (10-15 ft) just gets in the way and places your dog too far away when giving commands. Retractable leashes provide limited control and can also be quite dangerous when you’re near traffic or walking in a busy area.
- Work on a heel command –Go back to the basics and work on a heel behavior in your home. To teach a dog to heel, stand next to a wall or step and guide your dog with a treat next to you. By being next to a step or wall your pet is more likely to stay close to you, lessening the gap between the two of you. Do this over and over, saying heel while guiding them into place, and rewarding them when they are standing next to you. Once your dog begins to understand the command, have a family member walk by you and see if your dog stays.
- Invest in a no-pull harness –If you’ve taught a ‘heel’, but it still isn’t getting better, it’s time to consider a no-pull harness. We’re a fan of theBalance Harness from Blue-9 pet products. The Balance Harness doesn’t restrict your dog’s movement, and all the straps are adjustable so you can ensure a good fit. A good no-pull harness allows you to clip the leash to the front, which helps redirect their movement when they begin to pull.
- Commit to 30 minutes –If you’re stressed and in a hurry during your walk, your dog will sense your stress and it will be hard for them to relax and focus. So, set aside 30 minutes and leave your phone at home. Take frequent breaks to practice your heel command when they are pushing the limits, and reward them with a treat or lots of praise when they stay next to you. If they’re not getting it, try more frequent, shorter walks down the block to start, and, as they succeed, lengthen your walks.
- Adjust expectations –Getting your leash-puller to sit and stay with all the distractions of the outdoors can be a challenge, so try to be patient. You’re probably not going to correct it your first time out in the neighborhood, but you will see improvement. Just stay committed to practicing your training commands (sit, stay, heel) while you’re out on your walk and don’t forget the treats.
Does your dog appear anxious? Are they having accidents in the house, barking more, appearing more aggressive as people walk by your house, or exhibiting restless behavior – like they can’t quite get settled? They’re probably feeling anxiety. Dogs feed off of your energy, so if these past few weeks are causing you stress, your pet is probably picking up on that. Time to break out the enrichment toys for your pup! Toys that mentally stimulate your dog tire them out quicker than pure physical exercise. Many of the destruction problems pet owners experience with anxious dogs can be resolved by adding mental exercise to your dog’s daily diet. Here are some of our top picks to get your dog’s brain working:
The great thing about this toy is that you can make it easier or more difficult for your dog as they flip, roll, throw and dig to free treats from its holes. Consider breaking up their food into pieces to extend feeding time!
Try stuffing a Kong toy with peanut butter or yogurt, pop in some of their kibble or treats and freeze overnight to make it even more interesting (and a little less messy). Your dog will be focused for at least an hour.
Of course, we had to give our product a little plug! If you have a ball-obsessed pup, charge up the iFetch Too or plug in the iFetch and let the fetching begin. Use it indoors when the weather is yucky or on your back porch when you’re relaxing after your work day. If you have a digger, try hiding your dog’s dinner kibble in the iDig flaps for some mental stimulation time. Looking for training tips? There are lots on our website here.
If your dog is engaging in play but still seems unusually anxious, try a calming vest. They’re like a weighted blanket for your pet. Unfortunately, they don’t work for all dogs. If you want to try before purchasing one, try wrapping your pup with an Ace bandage. Warning: Don’t put it on too tight – we don’t want your pet to lose circulation! Another idea is to give CBD products a try. Keep in mind that not all CBD products are equal, and, in some states, like California, veterinarians aren’t legally allowed to recommend them. If you’d like to give it a try, find a CBD oil or product that is has been tested, with no additives. Our favorites are Hempmypet, Honest Paws and Treatibles.
Other Ways to Entertain
Grab the kids and try these other fun indoor games to play with your favorite furry friends:
Have one person stay with your pup while the other one goes and hides. When they are set in your hiding place, have them call your dog’s name and see if they can find you. Call again a few moments later and repeat as needed until you’re found. Of course, give lots of love when your pup finds you.
Tell your pet to “stay” (or have someone else hold them on a leash if they haven’t mastered stay). With your pet watching you, place a few treats in sight around the room. Return to them and say “Find it” while releasing them to get the food. Then, slowly increase the distance to across the room, down the hall and so on. When you say ‘Find it’, they’ll sniff around and search for the treats throughout the house. Kind of like an Easter egg hunt for dogs!
We hope these tips and games have inspired you to invest some time in dog training over the next few weeks. The bottom line is to have fun and spend some quarantine quality time with your pup while you can. Stay safe everyone!