You, like many others in the nation and the world, are at home. You are spending more time than ever with your family, including your dog. You’re discovering all kinds of things you didn’t know about them all. Some of the things you are discovering are truly wonderful and beautiful and make you love them even more, or fall in love again. Some things, however, are probably about to drive you crazy and you are wondering “How have I put up with this for so long?” The old adage holds true, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
We have been absent in each others’ lives due to work, activities, and school. Now we are forced to cohabitate in close quarters with those we love and might be struggling with too much interaction. Throughout this struggle, you might find that the most steadfast friend is your dog. You find yourself sitting outside with him to catch your breath. Stroking his coat calms you down. Playing with him boosts your mood. You find yourself actively looking for him and bringing him close to you often, but, when is close too close?
Your dog probably loves this time after a lifetime of stay-at-home and social distancing. He not only has his family with him constantly, but is possibly finding himself to be the center of attention. There is so much closeness and attention, it is intoxicating! It is a great time to be a dog! The problem is, this will pass. You will go back to work. The kids will go back to school. You say you won’t go back to the busy life you were living, but things happen. The new Marvel movie is out. There’s a sale on at Target. Oh, let’s not forget about sports, parties, cookouts and well, you get the picture. The days of your dog being at the center are over and if you aren’t careful, they will be painful. Why? Because you let him get used to being too close.
Your dog thrives on social structure and routine. He becomes accustomed to a certain way of doing things. When you change things around, he will react. Right now, you are spending a lot of time with him, actively seeking him out, likely even going out of your way to make him feel loved by giving extra treats, letting rules slide, petting him when he nudges you, letting him in when he barks at the door, and keeping close personal contact. This is his new normal. Your dog might take this new attention as a sign that leadership has been abdicated by you. He is able to control you with the simplest of demands, he can sleep on the bed, jump on the couch, beg for human food. He is now in charge!
When you go back to your “regular” life, he will panic. It is his job to lead and now that the pack is scattered the feeling of anxiety will hit him hard. Without good coping mechanisms, that anxiety will likely translate to aberrant behaviors such as panicked barking, destruction, loss of bladder control, etc. Even if he has not taken over leadership, he can become extremely anxious due to loneliness, fear, loss of structure, and uncertainty. This is all a result of too much attention and allowing him to remain too close.
To prevent this from happening, you need to start claiming personal space by separating yourself from his presence. You need to let him know you are capable of surviving without his constant presence and that he can, in turn, be fine by himself. This mutual independence does not diminish your bond. It will make the time you spend together more precious as it is no longer a requirement but rather a gift and blessing. By lessening his dependence on your presence, he will be able to confidently face the coming time when you will no longer be in constant contact. Stay safe my friends and contact Bark Busters with any training or behavioral needs!