Brought you to by Charley Perkins and Romi
Just a few months ago, I had never heard terms like “social distancing,” “self-quarantine,” or “ PPE.” Nowadays, such things are a way of everyday life. These are weird times for sure, and for many of us, that means spending way more time at home than usual. Romi and I are really lucky: We live in a place where we can easily enjoy the fresh air outside, and finding time in nature these days really helps us both manage the stress. However, many of our friends and their dogs live in cities, and for them, quarantining with a dog is starting to feel pretty claustrophobic. It feels timely that we think about how we set up our living situations, especially if we want to make this time as positive as possible both for us AND for our dogs.
In this two-part post, we want to talk about setting up your living space for you and your dog and some training that will help keep you productive at home. When living so closely with your dog, it is important to create some boundaries and to assign specific places for working, resting, eating, and playing. Of course, different people and different dogs will have different needs for space, but in the end, it helps to make your home as functional as possible while working at home with your dog.
Setting Boundaries For Your Dog
Before we get into the specifics of how I set up my space for Romi and me, I want to talk a little about boundaries, which are an essential part of the relationship between humans and dogs. Although we love to interact with our dogs, it is healthy to find a balance of time together and time apart. This becomes especially important when you might be spending more time in the house than ever before. Every dog is different, so one might respond to this extra together time by seeking out more opportunities to be alone while another might become clingier or more easily excitable. It is important to be realistic about how productive we can be if our dog is always at our feet, especially if they are needy; this makes teaching boundaries all that more important.
I have found that one of the best ways to introduce the concept of boundaries to your dog is to “crate-train.” If you have never used a dog crate, you may be worried that it will feel like a prison to your dog. The opposite is actually true: dogs benefit from time in a crate. Dogs feel safe and calm in a den-like space and a crate can be just that! That being said, it does matter how you use your crate. I never put Romi in her crate with negative emotion or tone so that she can think of the crate as her safe space, rather than a punishment. Crates are also a great training tool; they take us people out of the equation and are helpful when teaching the dog how to be still, calm, and ideally quiet while you’re working at home with your dog.
Even though a crate is a sanctuary, you may need to help your dog get comfortable using it. So how do you do that, especially if your dog has never used one? It’s pretty easy. Here are some tips to help your crate-train your dog!
- First, put the crate in a dedicated spot in your home, and let it sit for a day or two, so your dog can get used to it. Put something familiar–maybe a jacket or blanket with your smell on it–on the floor of the crate for warmth and comfort.
- Next, put your dog on a leash, and guide them into the crate. Once they are in, take the leash off, give them a treat and a ton of praise. (Tip: slip leads are great for training because you can remove them quickly when needed.) Be really expressive; your dog has to know that going in the crate results in something positive. The first few tries getting your dog in the crate may be tough, but stay calm and consistent.
- After your dog begins to get the hang of what is expected, add a command such as “kennel” or “crate” when you lead the dog in. This will label the behaviour. Continue to reinforce the named behaviour with praise, and be sure to make the process fun. By getting in a lot of reps, you will ensure healthy progress, and you will also be teaching your dog a lifelong skill.
*You will notice that this is a very similar process I will use for training most of the skills to come. It’s pretty simple actually: first, you need to show/get your dog to do the desired behaviour, “name” that behavior, then reinforce that named behavior.*