This month has been emotionally overwhelming and difficult, following the terrible stories in the news, having to cancel ClickerExpo—a massive logistical undertaking—and working long hours to come up with alternative arrangements and solutions to a myriad of practical problems that have come up as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our team at KPCT is working around the clock to live up to your trust in us, and we will be reaching out with new remote learning opportunities when possible. It’s been a tough couple of weeks. Here are four thoughts about our pets that have been on my mind.
Feelings of uncertainty
First, as I reflect on my own feelings of uncertainty, I think of the many animals that feel this same kind of uncertainty, and worse, on a daily basis, and how the uncertainty affects their quality of life and behavior. For example, most dogs have little control over what happens in their daily lives, and no knowledge of what will happen next, which might scare them. Turn a corner and there comes a strange big dog; get into the car and not know where they are headed; arrive at the vet office and anticipate something bad will happen but not know what… and what was that noise in the hallway? A friend or a predator out to get me? So many animals lack a sense of safety and predictability. We may not be able to control the human world, but we can make our pets’ lives easier; clear cues, helpful routines, and consistent criteria go a long way toward making our dogs feel better.
Planning for your pets
Second, I’ve been thinking about how hard it is to fight an invisible enemy. Many of us are waking up to the dangers of Covid-19 only after having seen its effects in real life in Italy and other places. Please be cautious and take extra safety precautions. Be sure you have a plan in place for your pets in case you get sick.
Dealing with frustration
Third, as the fear of the unknown future affects us, we can become frustrated and short-tempered. It is easy to lash out and take actions that we may regret later. We are only human, and we cannot beat ourselves up over the mistakes we make. At least with each other, we can be understanding and feel a sense of compassion when we act, or someone else acts, in a manner that is out of character. Remember that we can’t easily explain this change in behavior to our pets, though. We must be mindful and make sure we are providing a comfortable and reinforcing environment for them, especially as we shelter in place and are around our pets all day!
Take breaks regularly
Lastly, I think of a trait that makes a good trainer: knowing when to stop and take a break so you can come back refreshed and clear-headed. Make sure you do that once in a while; it’ll be good for you and your pets. On that note, I will end this letter. I will return with more training topics when things slow down a little bit and I have had time to catch up on my work.
I am grateful for the compassionate messages of support I have received from many of you. I will continue to do my best every day to be worthy of your faith in me as we find ways to support your learning while keeping you safe.
In hopes of better times ahead,