Without the element of uncertainty, the bringing off of even, the greatest business triumph would be dull, routine, and eminently unsatisfying – J. Paul Getty
Recently, my normal every day routine has been wildly different. I went to CT for over a week, I went to Nashville, and combined with some other (positive) changes in my life, things became hectic. My normal week day schedule suddenly became non-existent. For a while there was no pattern, and now, there’s a new pattern. However, the new normal has only been in effect for a little over a week.
What does this mean? Porter’s a little bit uncomfortable. Dogs are creatures of habit. When we first got Porter he would bark like crazy when we left for work. However, he soon realized that we leave every day at the same time, and then end up coming back. So, really, it’s not that scary. The barking then stopped. Porter’s anxiety about us leaving, even when it’s not for work, has gotten better. However, he will act out in other ways.
With my schedule so different, Porter hasn’t had a chance to feel out and get used to the new routine. This last week he ended up being a little more frantic. I would have to enforce commands before they were carried out. Instead of being able to just snap my fingers to have him stop barking, I would have to use my body language to tell him that he had done his job and he could stop now. Walks were tough. There were many corrections to be made (and names to be called). His energy level had skyrocketed. He was nervous. He didn’t know what was coming next. We can look at someone and say “I’m feeling very anxious about not knowing what’s coming next”. All our dogs can do is show us. This comes in forms of not being able to stop moving, whining, barking, and pacing to name a few.
The best way for me to counter Porter’s anxiety is to show him that everything is normal. I go about my schedule as though this is what it always has been. There’s no “I’m going to miss you so much” before I leave for work. It’s simple. I leave the same way I did before.
I’ve added more activity. More hikes on the weekend, and runs in the morning. The activity in the morning helps him not have to focus on what’s coming next because he’s already tired.
And of course, we’ve upped the mental stimulation. There’s more work to be done on commands. Just yesterday we worked on the come command a little more. This time, to make it a little trickier and to make sure he’s paying attention I would say a string of words that started with that hard “C” sound. (ex. Cooling, Colorado, Crayon, Cope, Come”) He would have to make sure he was coming on the correct word. If not, he would be put back where he started and we would try again.
Anxiety is normal. We all get it. It’s how you react to it. There’s no babying. It’s isolating the problem and figuring out how to move forward. When you change your routine on your dog, it can be a very scary situation for them. The world is a scary place and if they’re not there to protect you, who knows what happens? Focus on giving them the PAW that they need and coming up with creative ways to work a little harder at it. Soon, the new abnormal will become the old normal and it won’t matter as much anymore.