Certified dog trainer Juliana Willems gives tips on how to prepare your dog for when you go back to work. (Courtesy Dog Latin Dog Training)Whether your dog is enjoying your extended presence at home or it’s hiding to get some peace and quiet for a change, a Montgomery County, Maryland, dog trainer has tips on how to get your pup ready for when you return to work.
Anyone who had to hunker down and comply with stay-at-home orders may have experienced it.
The tail-wagging and contented sighs from the family dog, thrilled that once again that its human companion is staying home.
No more extended absences from human companions.
More snuggles, more walks, more fun.
Now, with many coronavirus restrictions being lifted, another change in routine is ahead: Dog owners may be headed back to work.
And that’s where some issues could crop up. For the dog.
Dogs don’t like change, said Juliana Willems, a certified dog trainer with Dog Latin Dog Training and Behavior Consulting in Garrett Park.
“Their behavior can really deteriorate if we all of the sudden throw a change at them that they were not expecting,” she said.
Willems said the key is to introduce change gradually.
In this case, one minute at a time.
Willems said clients often think they can start leaving home in one hour blocks, but for a dog that has been accustomed to being glued to your side 24/7 during the pandemic, that’s way too long.
“You really want to start from square one, even just one minute at a time,” Willems said.
Start by getting back on track with what you expect your return to a normal schedule will be.
Get back to the morning walks you used to take before work, and the evening walks that you would go on once you come home.
Then introduce the return to your daily departure in those — initially one-minute blocks.
For the dog that was accustomed to being home alone all day, the return to work may not be such a challenge.
But for the new dog owners, the people who took advantage of their time at home to finally take the plunge and get a dog, setting up a new routine is crucial.
To sweeten the deal for your dog, give your dog a favorite toy or treat that they don’t normally get when you leave.
Make it what Willems calls a “high-value” treat.
She suggests those rubber toys that can be chewed on, stuffed with a favorite snack, something that the dog can work on over time.
When you return, that favorite toy or treat should be put away.
The trick is, “The good stuff only happens when you’re gone,” Willems said.
Pretty soon, your departure will not be anticipated with anxiety, but seen as a pleasant experience.
Another behavior — this one for owners to try—is to keep your return home at night low-key.
“If we do want to teach them that being home alone is no big deal, then we don’t want to make a big deal about when we do come back,” Willems said.
So try to avoid the wild celebrations at the door when you return.
Something Willems said even she cannot resist when coming home to her own little dog, Lola.
Everyone has found that things have changed during the pandemic, and Willems said that the dog training industry is no different.
Trainers have found that they can help dog owners using virtual lessons.
For example, she was working with a client whose dog was showing some distress when being put in a crate and left for even small amounts of time.
So Willems did a virtual lesson with the client, connecting over FaceTime.
The client’s dog was led to the crate, placed inside and the client left the room.
Willems could see what was going on and share her observations with the client.
“I was able to text her on her phone while I was watching from her iPad, and it actually was a really helpful way to address some of the separation stuff,” she said.
No matter what your situation remember one thing, Willems said: Don’t be stingy with the treats while working toward a training goal.
Eventually you will get the behavior you want, and the treats won’t be the reward, Willems said.
The praise from a positive owner to a relaxed dog will make everyone happy.
And for owners looking for puppy socialization while still trying to socially distance from humans, Dog Latin has a way to fill that need as well
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