IS YOUR DOG SUDDENLY GETTING WORSE? Is your dog suddenly not listening? No focus, no basic commands, no longer food or toy interested?
Then you’re not alone! Many families are now experiencing that their dogs are not progressing with their training at all. Even just simple basic commands and house manners such as sit, down, stay seem to have lost their meaning for many dogs at the moment.
There really IS a simple reason for this! It is NOT because of that new Force-free training programme that you’ve bought online. It is NOT because your dog is stupid or trying to be mean. Usually, it is NOT because you are not good enough, either. Trust me, this is so simple.
The reason why so, so many dogs at the moment seem to be getting worse is because of covid-19. Your dog doesn’t have it – let’s just make that clear. But we humans have been forced to stay home all the time. We’re under lockdown.
As much as our dogs love us and love having us around all the time, it is in fact stressing them out a lot. You might not have noticed any stress signs, as these can be super small. Stress is not just running around and feeling restless or barking constantly. Stress can also be seen as lip smacking, yawning, licking of paws, scratching AND sleeping.
Many people have said to me that their dogs get plenty of rest as they are sleeping lots and cuddling on the couch and such. Yet, most also mention that the dog will open its eyes if someone moves or enters or leaves the room. Some dogs will even follow their owners.
Even though your dog might only follow you with its eyes, or follow you in a slow pace without running, this constant “checking up on you” takes a lot of energy for your dog.
Then why do you not notice this in your normal weekends? Because, then you’re only home for 2 days. Then you might even do other things that are not necessarily at home, and it is ONLY 2 days. It still drains your dog’s energy, however, the effects are not as great because it gets to properly recharge soon after.
Stress can be in the body up to 72 hours. And that is just stress from 1 event. So keeping a watchful eye on you for an entire day can sit their bodies for even longer. Then, the next day comes, and they haven’t had a chance to properly recharge, so instead of only having stress for 72 hours, another full day’s stress is added on top of that, accumulating even more. So now there will be more than the initial 72 hours stress. And this happens every day.
So when your dog now doesn’t listen when you tell it to sit, or it has started with some new bad manners, this is why. It is stressed and it doesn’t have the mental capacity to do anything about it. Some dogs will seek an outlet for it which is where you will experience unwanted behaviour such as destruction, barking, peeing inside, snatching treats or biting your hands, and so on.
So what can you do about it? The best would be to ensure that your dog gets plenty of proper deep rest. This is only possible if it doesn’t have the chance to keep watching you. Put your dog in a separate room to sleep throughout the day for a couple of hours. Dogs should rest approximately 18 hours a day – and that’s a lot!! This obviously doesn’t have to be in one go, but spread throughout the 24 hours.
Also, if you’re training with your dog often or maybe even daily, make sure to schedule “rest days”. These are days where you won’t do any training at all. And that’s important! No loose leash walk training, no impulse control training, no distraction training, no tricks, obedience, agility, rally, flyball, or any kind of training. Do a complete rest day. So when the dog is with you and not sleeping on its own, you should also be completely relaxed and not move too much about as this would further stress your dog again. Watch a lot of TV or play video games or read some books while the dog is lying next to you.
After having implemented this for a few days, you’ll start to see your dog return to its normal self. Some dogs are fast at recharging and you’ll see results after the first proper rest day, while others will have build up lots of stress that will take the full 72 hours to deplete – then you might have to have 3 consecutive rest day to truly empty the stress from your dog’s body, but they will be happy that you do this for them – even if they won’t show that at the time.
So take care of yourself, take care of your dog, and have some rest days together. Have a quiet room only for the dog, and let it sleep there alone during the day too. This will truly help.