While we are finding ways to occupy our time during these weeks of self-isolation we can’t forget about our furry companions. Sure, they offer us an “out” that we’re gladly to oblige to get some fresh air. They are here for us but we also need to take care of them. I recently noticed Caroline Applebee (RaisingRover.com) had shared some useful information for pet families .

Caroline is a Toronto-based Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behaviourist who is well-known for her positive reinforcement dog training and consultation. Our family worked with her during Harley’s first year to give us a solid foundation through puppy classes and private training. Here are some of her tips to help us through these challenging times…

Sticking to routines:

Caroline tells us that dogs thrive on structure and a predictable environment. It provides them with a sense of security “Try to establish a consistent daily routine with meals, play, walks and quiet time all following a somewhat predictable pattern. Sticking to a routine not only helps pets – it will help us too,” she says.

How many walks are too many walks?

Since we’ve been house-bound our family has increased the number of daily walks and lots of fetch playing with our pooch. But Caroline tells us too much physical exercise on a daily basis, especially when they aren’t conditioned for it, isn’t good for them (ooops…my bad). “They aren’t getting the chance to rest and exhaustion means they are less able to cope with other everyday stresses (just like we can’t cope when too tired). For a dog who is really getting pushed, that could lead to them getting cranky and snapping more easily. Overtired isn’t the same as being able to stay calm and may actually be counterproductive. A tired dog is just that, tired. Not the same as good,” says Caroline.

Side note: The Office of the Premier recommends limiting the number of pet walks as needed. Essential dog walks on leash are currently fine. Dog parks of closed of course as are off-leash areas in Ontario. (Source: Press release from the Office of the Premier. March 30, 2020.)

Shhhh! Quiet time, yes, please!

In addition, it’s important to factor in quiet time for resting. “Our pets really need to keep spending time alone. Ideally following the schedule they were used to before all this happened,” says Caroline.  She’s worried that we are going to see a spike in separation anxiety once everyone goes back to work. And she’s not alone. Friends of ours who’s pets are not used to having their families home during the days are already aware of the adjustments that will be necessary to return to routine.

Be aware of your stress levels:

“Dogs are like emotional sponges. If you’re having a bad day, worried about finances, health, your loved ones, just be more mindful – just as you would with young children. Yes, they provide us with great comfort but stress takes a toll on them,” she says. Play calming music for them (and for you). Caroline highly recommends “Through A Dog’s Ear” series available on iTunes and Spotify. “It really works and you might just feel more relaxed with it too.”

Socialization and Mental Stimulation:

Caroline suggests puzzle toys that are mentally stimulating. Even switching up how their meals are served like packing them into a puzzle toy (kongs, snuffle mats, tricky treat balls) rather than just tossing in a dish on the floor offers more stimulation. As far as socialization, well, that’s on hold for now as she monitors regulations but she will offer tips on that as well as toy options in the coming weeks.

Continue your training:

Spring season often sees an increase in new puppies moving in with their new families. There’s also been a recent increase with families adopting or fostering pets from shelters and rescues. While physical distancing is top of mind, there are still ways to incorporate training every day. Caroline is adapting to the needs of families by offering more online consulting.  “With the benefit of videotaped homework exercises it’s amazingly effective –sometimes more so for a variety of reasons,” she says. “I’ll definitely continue to offer this option even once restrictions are lifted.”

Contingency Planning:

It’s wise to consider a contingency plan just in case you do get sick. Do you know who will care for your pet? This is a good idea even in simpler times. Many of us have family members who can step in and take care of our pets but it’s wise to have your Plan A and maybe even a Plan B.

Side note: If you don’t have a family or friend that you can rely on during this time, explore other boarding options. Be sure to read their current policies during COVID-19 as many have adjusted their services and hours of operation.

It’s a good time to get things in order with a notebook that includes information about your veterinarian, the type of food your pet eats as well as amounts and how many daily feedings your pet needs. Also, note any medication and be sure to have prescriptions up to date. A general daily routine schedule can also come in handy. Keep an eye on your current food levels too should an emergency arise.

What else can we do?

Incorporate other family members into the fold. “I have done a few ‘tricks’ on private online sessions that kids LOVE. It’s a nice option for parents who are running out of projects for the kids,” she says.

I’d recommend also following Caroline on social media (@raising_rover on Instagram) for some daily tips. The key is to find the trusted sources that are beneficial to the well-being of your furry friend and also share these messages.

Oh, and yes, puppy classes and private training are continuing online! Physically playing with other pups is only a small part of socialization and we’ll have to wait that out for the time being. But she’ll keep an eye on the restrictions and let us know when it’s good to be out again!

Want to learn more? Contact Caroline directly at www.raisingrover.com