Last week I had a realization. I saw this cartoon and the caption made me realize, during this pandemic, when we’re all unable to interact with, or even see, people when we want to, that this is what being a barrier frustrated dog is like. (Barrier frustrated dogs are dogs that are generally social with people and/or dogs and get frustrated, which sometimes looks like aggression, when they are prevented from having access, like when they’re on leash or behind a fence or other barrier.)
And now, just like our dogs, we want something and we can’t have access to it and we don’t quite know how to deal with it. We all are dealing with these feelings differently and maybe you span a variety of emotions on different days and at different times and that’s OK. You may be sad, angry, defiant, feeling defeated or trying to be creative to get what you want – just like barrier frustrated dogs.
Many dog parks and dog daycares are closed. People are distancing and outright avoiding others when they’re outside. And for people-friendly dogs, that perhaps visited with people on daily walks and now can’t, this is all really hard and confusing for them. And while we humans have some coping mechanisms available like calling or having a video get together, our dogs can’t exactly do that. (The flip side is that many reactive dogs are loving the distancing and safety that comes from it!)
I have definitely noticed an uptick in inquiries about dogs pulling, barking, lunging and being reactive on leash – all possible signs of barrier frustration. Many of these owners report their dogs usually go to the park, or visit with people or dogs on leash. And now that’s all stopped. There are things we can do to help these dogs now and I’m happy to schedule a session with you to discuss your particular dog. But, certainly increasing exercise and enrichment are two ways to help your dog channel energy into healthy, safe activities. I’ve got lots of ideas for that on my social media, if you need ideas.
I think, I hope – that one of the positives that comes out of this whole pandemic, is that maybe we will come out of it a little more understanding and a little more compassionate, with people and dogs. Maybe we won’t be so annoyed when our dog pulls to greet someone. Maybe we will not rush off the phone so quickly when our lives are busy. Maybe we will remember these times, when being able to just go outside was a treat. We can learn a lot from dogs and I think more people are seeing that now more than ever. I hope you can enjoy a short nap, a good meal, a short walk outside, snuggling with those you love – just generally appreciating the little things in life. Try not to forget these things when life returns to whatever “normal” will be.
Stay safe. I’m here if you need help.