Velcro dog: The pandemic’s impact on my fur baby

May 28, 2021 | 6 comments

Floppy Ears, my much-loved rescue dog and “author assistant,” has been a happy part of our family since April 2017.

However, after fifteen months of pandemic, including multiple lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, mask-wearing and avoiding others when out and about, as life has changed for everyone, Floppy Ears has changed too.

From happy hound

Pre-pandemic, Floppy Ears was a friend to all, greeting other dogs and people with a wagging tail and happy vocal “hello.”

She was crate trained and had progressed to staying home alone for several hours outside her crate without chewing books, shoes or stray toothbrushes.

To Velcro dog

In recent months, however, and although still a loving family pet, our sweet Beagle-Walker Hound has become increasingly distrustful of both strangers and other dogs.

She hides behind me and growls when her now neighbourhood nemesis, a Chocolate Labrador, has the temerity (from her point of view) to be in the same vicinity on a walk.

She also growls at her reflection in the glass doors of a bookcase, not realizing it’s her own face looking back at her.

And with Tech Guy, English Rose and I at home almost twenty-four seven, Floppy Ears can’t relax unless she knows where each of us is at all times.

She stays especially near me and, on the rare occasions when I go out without her, she keeps watch by a window waiting for me to return.

If she mistakenly assumes she’s been left home alone, she voices her angst with mournful hound dog howls until I remind her I’m still nearby.

Reassurance…and retraining

Since Floppy Ears came to live with us, after being found in a small-town dump with no collar, tags or microchip, we’ve guessed at her history from anxious behaviours; for example, her inexplicable fear of dark-coloured pickup trucks and SUVs.

The pandemic, though, has meant she’s become much more anxious and we now have what’s called a “Velcro dog,” one who needs to be close to their owners at all times.

Since we’re far from alone in this situation and, as post-vaccine, “normal life” finally beckons, there are multiple specialists offering tips for pandemic-traumatized dogs like ours.

When we’re finally allowed to socialize outside our own household, Floppy Ears will have supervised play dates with a trusted canine friend.

On walks, we’ll gradually desensitize her to people and other dogs, and once again work on leaving her home alone for short periods.

The Chocolate Labrador, though, may be her enemy for life.

Dogs have strong associative and episodic memory, and Mr. Chocolate Labrador lunged and growled at Floppy Ears first.

As such, and as long as they live near each other, when I spot him exiting his front door, or hear the telltale jingle of a collar from half a block away, I’ll close our living room blind or redirect our walk.

Like with teenagers, some battles aren’t worth fighting!

6 Comments

  1. Heidi

    As you wisely observed, some battles aren’t worth fighting. When we do choose our battles, it can seem an uphill climb, at times. Best wishes reacclimating Floppy Ears to your desired behaviours. Since our dog has always had the benefit of someone being home, she’s not been as affected during this pandemic. In fact, three walks a day sounds like a sweet deal! *Shall I fetch the leash?* she telegraphs whenever she sees me put on my walking shoes!

    Reply
    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you for your good wishes for Floppy Ears and our family, Heidi. Floppy Ears would love three walks a day! Like your dog, though, she gets very excited whenever she sees me putting my walking shoes on. Unfortunately, I wear those shoes to go to places where she can’t come, the post office, for example.

      Reply
  2. Roz Schindler

    Jen, I read this with great interest and compassion. Barney whines when I have been away for several hours, as if to say: “Wait a minute. Why are you not here with me 24/7 anymore?” In MI< we are much freer to go out and about than you are in Canada. I have been fully vaccinated since early March. And Barney also needs to be with me at home at all times. He follows me from room to room. AND there are two big dogs nearby who once got out of their normally gated driveway unleashed and lunged at Barney. He and I were both terrified and I screamed until the owner arrived seconds later and apologized profusely. I always avoid those dogs when out walking as you do with Mr. Chocolate Labrador.

    Reply
    • Jen Gilroy

      What a scary experience for you and Barney, Roslyn. I’m glad you were both okay and that the owner of those dogs arrived quickly. It’s interesting to hear how Barney’s behaviour has changed owing to the pandemic too and also as you return to more “normal” life. It gives me a bit of a map of what to expect when restrictions finally ease here in my part of Canada.

      Reply
  3. Jennifer Wilck

    Yes, even our dogs have changed! Midnight was so used to having only the four of us home that whenever people come to the door, she now barks–she’s not a barker and she even barked at my parents, whom she loves. And she had to adjust to not having certain rooms to herself, since we’re in them. 🙂 Hope Floppy Ears manages okay.

    Reply
    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for your good wishes about Floppy Ears, Jennifer. Although I’m sorry to hear that Midnight has struggled too, it’s also somewhat reassuring. The pandemic has had such a big impact on the way we live our lives, it’s not surprising that dogs are also impacted. Unlike humans, though, they have no way of understanding why things have changed so much.

      Reply

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