• Drew Webster

Pandemic Puppy, Disruption Dog, Did you adopt a dog during the Covid 19 global crisis?

So you said, "well at least we have time now, let's get a dog". What a great idea, you are home spending time with the family, focused on things that really matter, what could be better than adding a dog to the family?

Now you are realizing that dogs are a lot of work, puppies need a ton of socializing, and you are actually busy during this time trying to make it work. So it is time for training! I like to think of training as the process of building a mutual language. Dogs are non-verbal creatures yet we insist on talk AT THEM all the time. When we train we are pairing a sound (cue/command) like the word "SIT" and associating it with a behavior and if you are doing it right, following that with something reinforcing like a tasty treat so that behavior will be repeated. So your are stuck at home and now it's time to "home-school" your puppy and you need support.

So grab a pen and paper, it's time to make a plan. First write out what your hopes and goals for this dog are, this is important. Think about why you are adding a dog to your family, what effect do you want it to have on your life/family/community? Is there anything you see people doing with their dog that you cannot wait to do? BTW if it's picking up the opposite sex, socializing with friends or hugging it out after your dog steals someone's snack off the park bench... that will have to wait until we can be close again. This to shall pass, for now, let's focus on your relationship with your new dogs, they don't really understand the personal space concept.

1. Make a plan: Come up with a list of supplies to help you slowly introduce your home and life to your dog. This means crates, leashes, harness, treats, food, poop bags, pooper scooper, chew toys, dog bed, bowls, oh and the list goes on and on my friends.

2. Build a schedule: This is really something to consider right now. First you have your coronavirus schedule and your real schedule. Set an alarm (I know, you finally get to sleep in) but actually keep your normal work hour schedule (I give you permission to be lax on the weekends), dogs thrive when you give them predictable routines, it helps them anticipate what will happen next and decreases overall anxiety. Feeding and potty schedule are hugely important. Remember if food and water go in, they must come out... it's science ;) You may have to tweak your feeding times, pick up bowls and manage how late you give access to water to be successful.

3. Train everyday: Don't think about training as something that happens when you are ready, focused and committed to teaching something. Dogs are learning all the time, we need to think about the way we interact with them on a daily basis. Find 5 or 10 minutes during the daily activities to work on ONE FOCUSED GOAL. Rewarding behavior gets repeated. So be intentional about when you feed, treat, play and pet your dog. We say "you get what you treat" or "you get what you pet", meaning, if the behavior produces rewards you will get more of it. Ask your dog for simple behaviors before doing daily activities like "SIT" before putting the food bowl down, "WAIT" before going out the door and reward quiet and calm behavior throughout the day.

4. Get Curious: Dogs are amazing creatures and they are so prevalent in our culture it is easy to think we you know a lot about dogs but really when you are living with, raising or training a dog it is THE STUDY OF ONE, dogs are individuals and just because something may be true for one, doesn't mean it will be true for your dog. Learn about dogs, your breed (if you know it or breed package- or do a DNA test if it's unknown), and read books! Be aware most things on the internet or television must be taken with a grain of salt. There is some great info out there, but there is soooooo much bad info out there, be careful. Taking the wrong path can derail your relationship with your dog and ruin your chances for success. I am happy to provide a ton of FREE quality resources and recommendations if you email me.

5. Ask for help: There are certified professional dog trainers in your community ready to help, right now everyone is offering digital content, video conferencing and online classes. Go to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers or the Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers sites to locate a qualified trainer in your area. Can't find one, check out our digital classes and one on one sessions. I am a big believer in small business and community. If you can get connected in your town that is the best, those trainers will be there for you when social distancing ends.

During theses uncertain times we can think about all the bad things that are happening, the devasting effect it will have on so many peoples lives, the total and complete disruption to what we knew as "normal life" or we can see this as a chance for something new to begin. Don't take this time for granted. Use it as a gift, look inward and focus on what's important. Let dogs open doors to a new world for you. One where you are putting wellness first, taking time for stillness and play, connecting with all living things and most of all during this time don't just aim to SURVIVE, rather... I challenge you to THRIVE.

I am launching a 15 day challenge and I would love you to join us, this challenge is to get more people to make a small donation to those health care workers on the front lines, my gift to you will be one challenge every day which will deepen your relationship with your dog through activities, training skills and meditations on the human-animal bond. Click on the Dogs Open Doors Shop and join the challenge today. If you just got a new dog, maybe one of our online classes is more suited to supporting you, check out the puppy, basic obedience and one-on-one coaching classes available now for a serious discount. 



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