Following the announcement of a second lockdown I have felt a huge range of emotions within the last few days, Anger, Frustration, Lethargy, Anxiety, Relief, Sadness to name a few. The logical conclusion to the current situation for me has been an acceptance and to start planning on how to make the best of this difficult time. I state this with the full understanding and empathy that others are;
a) in the same boat
b) may have come to different conclusions and states or
c) have not worked through to a conclusion yet xxx
What I can offer is some ideas and hopefully some help in planning and structuring time to continue the training and development opportunities for you and your dogs. Planning how to juggle competing demands on time, work and home responsibilities and still find time to continue dog training is a very real challenge.
Attending puppy classes (when not in lockdown) at least provides structure to your training. Providing homework sheets, tips and advice and an overall plan on how to move puppy training forward relieves at least some of the stress.
Try if possible, to keep your training lesson time going.
If you normally attend puppy training 6 pm on Thursday evenings, keep that time to train new skills with your dog and then schedule in time to practice them throughout the week. Hopefully, you have managed to access some online training and support from your training establishment. Join group support and utilise online training to keep you motivated, give a sense of direction and purpose to your training. The process of setting yourself and puppy a target or goal helps you to measure success. It is a great feeling when you and your puppy achieve those goals so celebrate them. It may something simple like your puppy has achieved a down, that’s great, share and celebrate it!
Don’t think of your puppy training as a whole task or process, you will feel overwhelmed.
Each week set yourself 4 tasks to complete for that week.
Choose one new skill to develop. Say, teaching your puppy to ‘give a paw’ and enjoy developing this new skill.
Extend one existing skill. For example, if your puppy can do sits all around you in the home, garden and outside you may choose to start practice some distance sits. Practice getting your puppy to sit when asked 2 paces away from you in as many environments as possible.
Choose one new game or activity to play with your puppy. For example, let your puppy explore and shed a large cardboard box with some hidden treats inside or hide a box inside a box, inside a box with hidden treats. Keep activity/play sessions short, do not overtire or overexcite your puppy.
Introduce your puppy to one new environment. For example, plan and take your puppy for a short walk into town to sit and watch traffic with you. Take lots of yummy treats (and a coffee for you) and sit and let you puppy get used to the noise, vibration, smells that are around in busy urban areas. If you have more time available, try two or three new environments each week. If your unable to get out and about introduce your dog to new sounds and objects around the home.
Set realistic goals when you are training your puppy. Remember that your puppy’s performance level will reduce in higher distraction environments. High value treats may assist in focusing your puppy but do not expect them to complete commands out in the distracting world as successfully as when they are at home. That takes time, practice, and patience.
Establish a routine with your puppy but remember to keep some flexibility in that routine. Bed/naptime, mealtimes, access to water and boundaries should all be established as part of the routine, however, utilise your dog’s food allowance for training ‘treats’ and also to use their food in boredom buster games.
For ‘Happydogsforever’ (hdf) customers we are posting boredom buster ideas on our Facebook group and we also have some pre-recorded videos available through a subscription from our website. Our Facebook group is available to offer support, ideas and provide a space for you to keep in touch with classmates and see what, how, who is doing what with their puppies during lockdown.
Its Ok to get frustrated, feel down, have an off day with your dog training- sharing your frustrations will hopefully help you to find solutions and keep a perspective on your progress. Please also share your successes! However large or small progress and success is a priority to share and celebrate, it also means the instructors can offer advice and get their puppy fix!
Look forward to seeing you all soon
P.S. We will be writing more on leaving your puppy alone during lockdown soon, for now though please do try to give them a few minutes alone each day to prevent separation anxiety developing in the future.