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Unleashed: Dog day afternoons

In case you’ve missed it, there’s a bit of a global pandemic about at the moment. Countries in lockdown, people staying home and life is certainly anything but normal. And whilst there are obviously some serious things to be concerned about right now, and following the advice of health professionals and governments is a clear priority – it’s also important to remember our dogs have no idea what’s going on, but they know something is different.

By Russell D Russell

Sunday 5 April 2020, 02:00PM

There are a few tricks to stop your dog from going around the bend. Photo: Roberto Nickson / Unsplash

There are a few tricks to stop your dog from going around the bend. Photo: Roberto Nickson / Unsplash

Over the last few days and weeks I’ve had a lot of calls and emails asking about what people can do with their dogs to stop them going round the bend, or destroying the house. I was also asked if this was a good time to get a new dog, surely it is, we’re all stuck at home with loads of spare time to engage with the newbie. What could go wrong?

So let’s deal with the newbie question first. I always advise people that getting a new dog, be it a puppy, rescue, doesn’t matter – do not get it at the start of the school holidays. Get the dog in the middle of a school term, or in the middle of a normal routine for you. Dogs need routine, structure, and above all, consistency.

Getting a dog during the holidays – or a pandemic-imposed isolation, for example – means you’re going to be spending pretty much 24/7 with the new dog. So this, for him, becomes normal. Then, when we go back to school – or are allowed out the house again – our world becomes normal, but it turns upside down for the dog. The routine, the energy, everything changes and it can be quite overwhelming. So no, just because you’ve loads of time on your hands possibly right now – this is a really bad time to get a dog.

As a caveat, I would suggest offering to foster a dog. There are issues of course with this, and there should be some structure in place, but that aside, for a few weeks and so on if it helps local rescue shelters and gives the dog some love for a few weeks, then crack on.

So what about the dogs we already have at home? What can we do to keep them engaged, entertained and prevent them from turning to excessive boredom behaviours and becoming destructive?


Firstly, there are some fun games we can play at home to keep our dogs engaged. A lot of people shun away from “trick” training as they find it a useless behaviour. I understand the point, it might be cute that you can get your dog to roll over, but other than impressing your friends, what practical use does that have?

For me, its not about the “use” of the behaviour – it’s the work that goes into getting your dog to do it in the first place. It takes time, patience and practice, all of which helps to really build bonds between you and your dog. How this translates to the longer term, is that your dog is likely to be that much more tuned into you, as working with you is fun and rewarding, so you’re also likely to see stronger obedience skill responses.

For a dog, roll over or sit makes no difference, it’s a behaviour that may bring reward, so I’ll try it. If your dog starts to work out that lots of different behaviours bring reward from you, they’re more likely to try it, which means they’re focused on you and not the other dogs or the neighbourhood cat!

Secondly, for the here and now, try playing a couple of games with your dog around the house. Hide and Seek is always fun. Have one person hold your dog, another person tease him with a treat or a toy, then run and hide. Keep it super simple to begin with, like around a corner or behind the sofa. Then release the dog to come find you, and he gets his treat or toy for doing so. Keep going, just make the hides a little harder each time.

If you would like some more ideas for keeping your dogs engaged during this trying time, then please to contact us on 091 654 1960, email info@k9pointacademy.com or check our website www.k9pointacademy.com. CPA is accredited with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Evaluator.

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