Is COVID-19 Shelter in Place Life Freaking Out Your Dog?

Mar 24, 2020 | General

Our dogs must think they’ve hit the lottery with their humans quarantined for COVID-19, huh? No more sad puppy dog faces as their people leave the house for work or travel.

But, some people are observing bizarre behaviors in their dogs such as clinginess or the unwillingness to do things they once enjoyed. What’s up with that, they ask?

Well, consider this – dogs are creatures of habit and derive their security from routine. In general, dogs do best in a stable, secure, routine-based environment. Would you consider today’s life stable, secure and routine-based? Um, NO! There is little normal about life today.

Consider how much COVID-19 has severely altered the average human’s daily routine with little to no warning. Now consider how that has altered the average dog’s routine.  If your typically independent dog who’s always been happy to chill on the sofa while you cooked dinner is now glued to your side, think about how very different their world has become.

How does a dog rationalize sudden, extreme change? They freak out on one level or another.

One day, it was life as normal with their humans going off to work and school. The next day, the humans are home all day every day and now it’s been weeks. Swift routine change triggers confusion which triggers insecurities in our dogs – hence, the odd behaviors.

Even if you’re handing all this COVID-19 stuff well, we’re all extra stressed by the overwhelming uncertainty. Our dogs pick up on that. You know how dogs know we’ve had a bad day even if we try our best to hide it?? Same thing here! They know something isn’t right in the human world.

We are their rocks. They look to us for stability and to guide them through life. If we are uncertain about our current situation, why wouldn’t our dogs also be uncertain and look to us now more than ever for reassurance that it’s all ok and going to be ok?

Our best advice to help your dog cope??

  • Embrace this time with your dog. Engage in play or snuggles at home and a reasonable number of walks per day. Please don’t walk your dog 16 times simply because you’re bored!
  • Change up the walk route so your pup doesn’t get bored with the same route every time you go out. New sights, sounds and sniffs enhance their enjoyment and engagement on walks. It also instills the sense that change is ok. If your dog enjoys car rides, take them for car rides to give you both a change of scenery.
  • Try to stick with as normal a routine as possible. If your dog always napped after their morning walk as you left for work, encourage that same routine. Don’t overstimulate them with constant attention. Remember – life will return to something resembling normalcy at some point and you don’t want to create future problems for your dog – like severe separation anxiety.
  • And most importantly, take a breath yourself. This is hard on all of us but stressing over it only stresses you and your pup out more. Rely upon your dog to do what dogs do best – loving us no matter what and making life better with their mere being – while your job is to provide your dog with the reassurance of routine to convey the idea it’s all going to be ok and we’ll all get through this together. 

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