Creating pawsitive vibes
Ensuring our dogs (and us) stay happy and healthy during lockdown will prove taxing to many pet owners. We are all having to discover new and innovative ways to spend quality time with our dogs at home - from novel hide and seek games to DIY agility courses.
A recent study we ran found that 1.500 UK dog owners cite their dog as a best friend, with 88% saying their dog makes them happy and 60% saying their dog helps them deal with stress & anxiety.
With time at home currently the new norm, many of us have become even more appreciative of our canine companions, however current restrictions on daily walks has meant that we need to get creative to ensure our pets remain stimulated and content.
We caught up with Certified Animal Behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson, co-founder of ‘Mindful Living and Our Dogs’, to hear why more time at home can be an opportunity - to unwind, switch off, and deepen a meaningful connection with our beloved dogs.
Caroline explains “We’re all adjusting to a very new world right now. Yes, even your dog is adjusting. They’re adjusting to their humans suddenly being more accessible and present in the home.”
“Don’t overlook the value of a routine” suggests Caroline. “Routines can offer a sense of security, particularly to anxious dogs. Aim to include any cornerstones of your usual routines that you can - being predictable when it comes to mealtimes, exercise, and bedtimes. While exercise time is restricted, think creatively when it comes to any mental enrichment you can also offer your dog. It's so important we consider our dogs' welfare - and our own sanity! - during the coming months.”
Top tips for pawsitive home time
By certified animal behaviourist, Caroline Wilkinson
1. Enjoy outside time when you can
Sunlight can help with the production of serotonin - a feel-good hormone - for us and our dogs! As we’re staying indoors for the majority of the day, really make the most of your outside environment if possible. Use your walks and garden space as a time to take your eyes off your phone and enjoy an adventure with your dog.
This is a great time to work on low-distraction behaviours with your dog. Things like ‘response to name’, recall from room-to-room in your home, or just games of tuggy, will all build up the value you hold in your dog’s eyes.
While we’re lucky to get extra time with our dogs at the moment, we don’t want to end up with hyper-attachment issues once normality resumes. Make sure you spend a little time away from your dog each day - whether that’s giving them a solo activity to do in the garden (such as food scatters) or leaving them in the lounge for a snooze while you are in another room. If your dog seems to be getting needier or they’re concerned about being left alone even for a few minutes, seek adviceof a force-free behaviourist over the phone or online.
This is a great time to be working on slow, steady exposure to different sounds our dogs might usually be a little uncomfortable with hearing. Download some sounds, such as fireworks, traffic, thunder, or airplanes. Start off with these noises played at really low volumes in your home while your dog is doing something super fun - like playing with you. Over the coming weeks, slowly build up the volume of the sound. If your dog acts fearful at any point, again seek out the help of a force-free behaviourist.
One way we can easily add some extra entertainment into our dog’s day is by changing how we feed them. Instead of putting all your dog’s food into their bowl, allow them to eat half from their bowl and then give them a way to earn the rest. This could be through food scatters in the garden, putting their food into a slow feeder or mat, or asking them to do some simple behaviours to earn it. Earned food is often better than free food!
Our dog’s noses are incredible tools and by using them to find food, scented items, or their favourite people or toys, we can raise the happy hormones in our dog’s brains. Try wrapping some tasty treats up in a towel for your dog to unravel. Or, have 3 containers and hide a treat under one, shuffle their positions and then ask your dog to find the treat-hiding container. Play hide and seek in your house - when your dog finds you, give them a game of tuggy or a treat as a reward.
As long as your dog is comfortable with being touched, stroking them or having cuddles can be mutually beneficial for both dog and owner. If you’re not sure if your dog does enjoy being stroked, try stroking them for 3 seconds and then move your hand away. If they move back in towards you for more, you know they were enjoying it. Touch creates another great feel-good hormone - oxytocin, which is the love and bonding hormone. While we’re socially distancing and unable to hug our human friends, hug it out with your dog.
Join us in our #pawsitivevibes campaign by sharing pictures or videos of your four-legged friend on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page for a chance for your dog to be featured as a pawsitive vibes hero.