Updated: Oct 20
I've talked to so many people since the COVID-19 shelter in place orders began who have told me their dogs are absolutely thrilled they're home all the time now. They ask me whether my dogs are happy and I hem and haw. My little lurcher, Argos, is thrilled. He would happily cuddle all day, every day. He's about the only one of us who isn't conflicted.
Very early on in the crisis, I started offering online dog training lesson. This meant I had to get up and film my dogs doing demos of behaviors every single day. This is largely what has been keeping the azawakh sane. They clearly miss getting to go places, but between demos and long hikes with no one around they been satisfied, though not thrilled. We've started scootering (scooter joring) with Anubi, have done some canicross, took tracking back up, and when I first put the flyball box down on the ground after weeks of not practicing, Amidi immediately did a box turn unprompted.
The struggle has been Ash, my smooth saluki. He's an awesome dog in a lot of way but he has always been sensitive to changes in routine and is very much a dog who values his independence and alone time (true to breed). A few months after I got him I moved. The boxes and uncertainty turned him into a shaky mess and it was best that he stayed with my parents for a week. He's come a long way since then but changes in routine still throw him off kilter. He was used to having a long day lazing about and then having me, my husband, and the azawakh at home in the evening to play and entertain him. Now I"m home all day as are the azawakh and we tend to interrupt his relaxation. As a result, old habits I haven't seen in years have started popping back up. He's resource guarding food and chasing the cats. He's grumping at dogs that try to cuddle with him. He's been hardest on Anubi, who's always been his biggest buddy.
A few weeks ago, Anubi sliced open the pad of his paw. It's healing well, but it was difficult to get in to see a vet. I've been caring for the wound at home with good success (thank you first responder training from years and years ago). A few days ago, Amidi and Ash were playing nicely next to Anubi. One of them stepped on Anubi's foot and a scuffle erupted. There was no biting involved, but a whole lot of posturing and noise. This was hardly my first scuffle, when you work at a dog daycare some disagreements between the dogs are inevitable. But it was truly the first time my dogs had fought. I don't think Anubi would have snapped at Ash if Ash hadn't been snarking at him for weeks - he's normally very good at walking away.
When you're a dog trainer (or breeder for that matter), you're under a lot of pressure, both internal
and external, for your dogs to be behaved perfectly. But dogs aren't perfect, just like humans aren't and so I'm taking steps to manage my dogs. I'm a firm believer that when you can't train, you need to manage. So Ash is getting a few hours of break up in our bedroom, just like he would if I was leaving the house to go to work. He's immediately been much happier. I'm managing the space around Anubi better and we're working on both dogs leaving him alone and him getting up and walking away from the situation. And I am making sure the azawakh get even more physical and mental escapes than usual. Honestly, my dogs are very easy, but even I overlook how much daily management in routine I employ to ensure that's the case. Yes, they have natural off switches, they won't pace the house all day. But I'm careful to give the ones who need a job that outlet.
This quarantine has changed everyone's lives and managing my dogs is just one aspect of that.