The pandemic has completely disrupted our lives and changed the way we do things, thrusting us into a way of life for which we were totally unprepared. The resulting stress has been difficult to manage, but after months of adjusting, most people have adapted to the new normal and found creative ways to navigate the changing landscape.
It can be stressful when situations change, even when we understand what is going on. Our dogs don’t have that luxury and are often blindsided by the disappearance of a best canine buddy or human friend. When a life-altering event happens, such as the death of a family member, a child leaving for college or the arrival of a baby, dogs find themselves at a complete loss, wondering what just happened. If you find yourself facing major changes, there are ways to help your dog while you also negotiate the challenges.
When a loved one dies, your dog might grieve the loss of her canine buddy or person. If she sleeps more, loses interest in food or resists your attempts to engage in play, she is most likely mourning. The best thing you can do is:
➻ Keep her routine as consistent as possible while ensuring she does not spend too much time by herself.
➻ Keep all the dog beds in the same place so that the scent of your dog that has passed is still there.
➻ Give your dog plenty of attention so she doesn’t feel alone.
If your dog loses her appetite, add tasty morsels to her meals and warm the food up to make it more enticing. If she always ate at the same time as her canine buddy, take your old dog’s place and eat at the same time she does.Social eating shows trust and is a habitual and comforting activity. Most dogs are sensitive to human emotions and will pick up on their loved one’s sadness, sometimes offering consolation behavior in return.
If your dog adores the teenager who is about to go to college or leaves home for another reason, make the transition easier by starting the disconnection process a month or so before the change happens. Have another family member take over your dog’s day-to-day care, including feeding and walking. If your dog sleeps on your child’s bed, change the sleeping arrangements in advance and have your child take a step back and pay your dog a little less attention.
Probably the most stressful sudden change is the arrival of a baby. For years, the dog has enjoyed a quiet life with her family, receiving attention whenever she needs it, and then out of the blue a new being arrives making a lot of noise and smelling very different. Help your dog adjust by preparing for baby well in advance:
✤ Buy a recording of baby sounds and introduce these sounds softly to begin with, increasing the level once your dog habituates to the noise.
✤ Purchase a baby doll and walk around with it like you will do when your baby arrives.
✤ Practice changing diapers, walking with a stroller and making your dog feel good when the baby doll is present.
When the time comes, keep everyone safe by never leaving your baby unattended with your dog at any time, not even to go to the bathroom.
Whatever changes occur, the best medicine for your dog is exercise. Walking, sniffing and experiencing the outside world makes everyone feel better. The more you can engage your dog’s brain in activities that physically and mentally stimulate her, the less confused and anxious she will be. Exercise releases pleasurable endorphins into the body, giving a feeling of well-being. Engaging your dog in team activities, such as dog sports, benefits both of you.
Adding another dog can also help after an appropriate period of time and your existing dog is no longer grieving. However, pick a dog that complements the one you already have to ensure the two enjoy each other’s company.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that life is precious and change can happen in a moment. The more confident your dog is, the easier it will be for her to cope with any changes that come her way. Giving your dog a humane canine education and understanding her unique needs will help all of you negotiate life’s challenges.
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