After the pandemic and during the first stay-at-home order, I slumped into a depression that put a dent in all of my relationships. I wasn’t seeing my family or friends already but I wasn’t connecting either.
When restrictions started to lift and I started back up on work and meeting with my family–even dating again–I felt like I was on autopilot. I was going through the motions of what I thought was normal but I was stuck in the mindset I was at home.
And it was affecting my dog.
I was at home one night and realized he didn’t come up to greet me when I got home. When I got up and looked around, he was laying in bed. He didn’t seem to be in pain but the boy had the saddest eyes.
I asked my friend about it, she works closely with animals. She said that if there are any drastic changes at home, dogs can get depressed from it.
“Sit down and think about what you do and don’t do anymore. Especially if it has to do with Sam,” she said to me.
So I did just that and it all came down to three things. Here are the 3 tips that saved my relationship with my dog.
1. Increase physical activity
It seems like a no-brainer but here’s what got me: as a dog owner, I’d walk my dog. I knew it was needed but with all the changes, the time I spent walking with my dog was cut down.
Because I wasn’t giving my dog the exercise and playtime he needed, he was struggling with building confidence in his environment and with amped-up separation anxiety. Without a satisfactory amount of physical activity, dogs can have an increase in behavioral problems.
I started walking Sam more but before I did, I went online and did research on how much exercise his breed needs specifically. Poking around, it seems like the average dog needs about 30 to 45 minutes of exercise. But for a big boy like Sam, a labrador, he needs around 80 minutes of high-physical activity a day.
As he gets older though, that’ll decrease to the average of 45 minutes a day.
2. Find ways to mentally stimulate
Even though I go to the office now, there are days that I’ll work from home. I don’t know what’s worse for my dog: me being home and not giving him attention or me not being home at all.
So I make sure that before I leave the house or before I start work, I take him for a long walk to get some of that energy out. When we get back to the house, I gather all his favorite toys, comforts, and a puzzle-treat toy.
They’re great for your dogs because they mentally stimulate them through problem-solving and rewards. It’s kept Sam busy on WHM days.
The brain workout is known to help decrease stress in dogs, lessen hyperactivity, stimulate happiness, and alleviate boredom.
3. Show more love and affection
I learned something interesting about dogs and their pack mentality. It’s why they’re so needy at times and crave love and affection. It’s not about a love language exactly but it’s the solid acknowledgment that they still belong.
“Although this may be what humans perceive, the underlying instinct for petting and snuggling is more of a reassurance that the pack leader (or owner) is still accepting them as part of the pack,” says Dr. Nelson, adding that the key is figuring out exactly what makes your dog happy. “Knowing your pet’s personality goes a long way when determining how much affection your pet may crave.” - Reader’s Digest, 8 Signs You’re Not Showing Your Dog Enough Affection
I made more room in the bed for my dog, figured out a balance between time away and at home, and now he’s happier than ever.
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