How to help your Spaniel beat winter blues

January 15, 2021
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You know that feeling after Christmas when you don’t want to wear anything other than your PJs and the thought of going back to your usual routine, in the mix of another lockdown, makes you feel… well, blue? Dogs can feel this too.

Granted Christmas was far from ordinary, but there was still plenty going on and lots of activity around for not just you but your dog too. That’s why when it comes to early January and it’s back to ‘normality’ (whatever that might be) your spaniel might start to show some signs of the blues.

With life even more hectic than ever, due to the juggling of homeschooling, working from home, being a pet parent and trying to function as a human. It’s important to remember that both you and your spaniel need to get some fresh air, daylight plus some mental and  physical stimulation.

Research, from PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) found that 40% of dog owners saw their dogs have a considerable downturn in moods during the winter months, plus half of the dog owners surveyed reported that their dogs were less active overall and slept for longer. 

Even though the weather has dropped even further, and the grass is sometimes crisp with ice it’s so important to get your spaniel out and about. This time walking somewhere new and exciting (keeping within your local area whilst we’re in lockdown) where maybe they can have a good sniff around will not only benefit your dog, but benefit you too! Exercise and fresh air is great for both of you to hit pause on lockdown life and the challenges it brings. Plus it will also boost serotonin levels for both of you, which is the important hormone for helping to lift both of your moods.

On the days where you can’t get out and about because the weather simply won’t permit it, and your spaniel is looking at you thinking ‘you’re not making me get out there!’. Think about what you can do at home. There’s so many practical things you can do, such as mental exercises or even treating your dog to a puzzle-solving toy. You can get really creative with your games for your spaniel.

Just like a magician does, you could play a game with your spaniel where you hide treats under different cups, slowly switching them around, when you stop ask your spaniel which cup has the treat under. You’ll be surprised how good that spaniel nose can sniff out the right one! 

You could also hide some treats in the house and play a game of hide and seek, telling them to go find it. How fast can that spaniel nose sniff out the goodies?

It’s also possible your spaniel might start to experience some separation anxiety, following your return to your regular, busy schedule. With family members being home and the house being busier, with lots more cuddles and strokes your spaniel might start to become more attached to being in your company. 

It’s likely that having the whole family at home your dog has gotten used to having all of the attention, but it’s so important that your spaniel learns that good things still happen when you’re not around. Whilst lockdown continues it’s also vital that your spaniel feels comfortable away from you, even if you’re still in the house.

Separation anxiety can be behaviours you may not have seen before, this could be more barking and howling. Or maybe an increase in trying to chew everything. As hard as it can be if your spaniel has chewed up the corner of your sofa, please try to remember they are doing this to get your attention because they miss you not to make you angry… we’ve all had at least one spaniel chewing disaster! 

I remember when one of mine thought the wall looked like a really tasty treat (disclaimer it wasn’t!) 

The best thing you can do if you suspect separation anxiety is start to reshow your spaniel that good things happen when you’re not around. So that they become more confident in being alone. A great way to do this is by putting out lots of activities around the house so that your dog can keep finding things that make them happy. Doing things like this will show your spaniel that you going out of sight doesn’t mean that something bad will happen.

To try do this:

  • Set enrichment toys up in one room, such as a licky mat and a Kong 
  • Leave the doors open so they can come to you at anytime 
  • Put other things around the house for them to explore
  • Then continue with what you need to do in another room

This helps them learn that good things happen away from you and that you’re not going to disappear if they go out of your sight. 

You could also experiment with teaching your dog a trick, such as roll over. To try this follow these step: 

  1. Lure your down into a ‘down’ position. Put a treat in your hand and move it slowly behind your dog’s neck. You want to get your dog to turn its head without standing up
  2. As your dog reaches its head back to sniff the treat, gently roll it over. As soon as they roll over give them the treat and lots of praise 
  3. Repeat this process as they start to roll over, use the command ‘roll’ and give them lots of praise and a treat
  4. Practise this again later in the day. Eventually your dog will understand the command and you will no longer need the treat every time. But make sure to give your dog lots of praise!

If your spaniel is wanting to chew a lot you could try to introduce new longer lasting chews into their life, or by letting them have a kong filled with something yummy. Remember, chewing for your dog helps them to combat boredom, as well as relieving frustration. Chewing something releases endorphins, which are feel-good hormones, for your spaniel which is the same feeling we get when we have a gulp of wine or a bite of galaxy chocolate (other brands are available).

You could experiment by filling their Kong with something tasty, such as this Oat Cookie Dough recipe:

Simply mix together in a bowl:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 chopped up banana
  • KONG Classic
  • KONG Peanut Butter Spread – normal peanut butter is fine just make sure it contains no Xylitol or palm oil

Then Split mixture between KONGs and you could even freeze for a greater challenge.

If you are freezing your kong please read this warning to take extra care.

As blue as you feel following the festive season and going into another lockdown, remember your spaniel is probably feeling it too. The best thing you can do is keep yourselves both busy and active through high quality walks together, brain training activities to keep you both amused and also focusing on activities to help your spanieil feel more confident and secure when you’re not around.

If you’re looking for more advice on being a spaniel owner you can sign up to receive a copy of my FREE e-book ‘How the hell to calm your spaniel down’ for my secret training tips. 

By Hannah Antrobus

Hannah is a spaniel specialist dog trainer for spaniels and spaniel crosses. Her catchment area is Warwickshire but she offers video sessions and works with clients nationally and internationally so don’t hesitate to get in touch from wherever you are in the world!

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