Has your four-legged companion become a little too used to round-the-clock cuddles? Well, Pete the Vet is on hand with tips to help ease the transition from lockdown to normal life. From helping your pet shift the pandemic pounds to DIY grooming, he answers all your questions here.
: We’re due to go back to the office three days a week soon – how can I get my dog used to the fact that I won’t be there 24/7 anymore?
PW: Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavioural issues I see these days. People love being with their pets so much that they never leave them alone, and as a result, many dogs never learn that it’s OK to be on their own.
Ideally, it’s best to teach your pet to be on their own from an earlier stage. Go out for short periods (10 minutes at first, gradually getting longer) and leave them with something to do, such as chewing a treat-filled toy.
When you’re leaving the house, don’t have a lengthy goodbye with your pet as it just winds them up into an anxious state of expectation that you are going away. And don’t greet them with a frenzy of joy when you come back. Instead, ignore them completely for five minutes or so, until they have calmed down – only then should you say hello.
A webcam can be a useful way of monitoring your pet to make sure they stay calm and settled in your absence. If your pet does show signs of getting upset, talk to your vet about calming medication that can sometimes be needed for the transition period until your pet is used to you being at work again.
Q: As well as DIY haircuts, I’ve been washing and grooming our dog in lockdown, but is there anything that’s best left to the professionals?
PW: Basic grooming is something that everyone can do once you have the necessary tools. All you need is a comb and brush, along with scissors for fringes and nail clippers.
Hair around the eyes is easy to do if you have a calm dog. Nail clipping is also easy if your dog has white nails, enabling you to see the pink quick where the blood vessel is. If your dog has black nails, where you cannot see the blood vessel, then it is better to leave this job to a professional groomer or vet.
You can also buy products to stop bleeding if you do accidentally nick the blood vessel while clipping your dog’s nails.
Q: My dog has packed on a bit of weight over lockdown – any tips on helping her lose it?
PW: The starting point is simply to get strict with your pet’s usual diet.
Start to measure how much you feed and stick to that rigorously, ignoring your pet’s big sorrowful eyes when they want more. This is not easy to do, but overweight pets suffer more illness and die earlier, so if you really do love your dog, the greatest gift you can give them is to help them reach their ideal weight.
Measure the daily food amount on weighing scales, then to make the daily task easier, work out how much this is on a plastic measuring cup that you keep beside your pet’s food store. An old yogurt tub lined with a permanent marker works just as well.
Weigh your pet every two weeks: if they are not losing weight, feed a little less food. Over three months or so, you will discover the correct amount for your pet.
Q: Like Major Biden, my new rescue dog was involved in a ‘nipping incident’ – how can I make sure it won’t happen again when people call over?
PW: First, spend 15 minutes a day doing basic dog training so that your dog will predictably sit, stay or lie down on your command: this will give you much better general control of your pet.
Second, learn about body language, so that you can tell when your dog is beginning to feel tense and anxious, and move them to another room, rather than waiting until a nip takes place.
Third, have your dog on a long training leash so that you are able to get full physical control of them rapidly if there is any sort of incident at any time.
Q: As Level 5 dragged on, I found myself feeling a bit down in the dumps, and noticed my dog was too. Could she be suffering from pandemic fatigue?
PW: Dogs enjoy routines, just as we humans do, and when lockdown happened, dogs and humans both had to adjust to a new, different routine.
While there were positive aspects to this (such as more time with their human pack members and more walks), other aspects of the new lifestyle may have been stressful for our pets.
Dogs love downtime, just snoozing on their own, so when people – adults and children – were at home all the time, some pets may not have had enough time chilling in their own company. If you compare the silence in a home with the noise levels when the whole family is chatting and laughing with the radio and TV on, there’s a big difference. As dog owners, it’s important to remember this, and to give the family pet some quiet space from time to time.
⬤ Check out more tips, training videos and pet products from Pete the Vet at petfixclub.ie
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