Dogs after quarantine: what will happen when we are not there for them all day?
Over the past year, you and your dog(s) have become closer than ever. Going on runs, walking at the beach, and of course, snuggling on the couch for hours at a time. But what will happen when we return to our daily lives in the coming months?
Prior to quarantine, our canine companions were used to a good portion of the day in which they were alone at home; however, their normal is now constant contact with us. One of my favorite things when I got home from a long day of school was being welcomed by my pups with the excitement of a Fourth Of July parade. Now, I can leave the house to grab the mail and be back in less than two minutes and still be welcomed home like I had been gone overseas. Have they become so accustomed to being around us that they can’t go a few minutes without being in sight of their owners?
What Is Dog Separation Anxiety?
In a nutshell, according to The Oakland Veterinary Referral Services, dog separation anxiety is an intense dislike of being alone. This fear can develop when a pet has been undersocialized in the past or has behavioral issues, like noise anxiety and phobias. If your dog is especially clingy, you may have what we call a “Velcro pet.” Dogs who have experienced trauma can be prone to this disorder.
Some behaviors associated with separation anxiety in dogs that you should look for are:
Chewing, digging, and other forms of destructive behavior
Attempts to escape or hide
Urinating/defecating in the home
Changes in appetite and sleep
What You Can Do To Prevent Separation Anxiety In Dogs
According to The Oakland Veterinary Referral Services there are a few things you can do to acclimate your pup back to the lifestyle of being alone for longer periods of time:
Since your pet has enjoyed your constant companionship, the change to spending more time alone can be challenging. It’s even more so for those dogs with severe cases of anxiety. Instead of an abrupt change in routine away from your pet, make the transition as slow and steady as possible.
Make sure to first make an appointment with your veterinarian in the event a medical issue is exacerbating the anxiety and other symptoms.
Stay consistent with the routine. If you normally feed your dog before you head out, make sure to stay consistent. Get them used to when they will be eating, exercising, going out to the bathroom, and getting daily snuggles. Even on weekends, or other days off, stick to the routine to ease your pet’s fears.
Incremental time alone is key. Make time away a gradual thing. Start small by going out for a few hours at a time. Have your dog spend time in another room by providing some toys and chew things for them to enjoy some solo time.
Crate train your dog. If your pet is already familiar with the crate, have them spend some time there while you work or prepare dinner. Give them toys and positive rewards while they are resting in their “den”.
Give them things to do. Provide several types of toys and games for your dog to enjoy. Something that is challenging, like a treat puzzle or a Kong filled with a frozen banana or peanut butter will keep them occupied and feeling good.
Consider a pet sitter or dog walker. As you start being out of the house for several hours at a time, your pet may feel stressed and afraid. Consider giving them a midday break by having a sitter, friend, neighbor, or the like swing by to take them out and play with them.
Downplay the goodbyes and hellos. If you respond emotionally to your dog’s reactions when you leave or come home, this reinforces their anxiety. It entrenches the belief that they are not okay when you are not there. Instead, stay calm and act relaxed, but not too excited when you come home. Attend to the day-to-day tasks around the house, while engaging your pet in a normal routine.
While COVID-19 has been incredibly hard on the human population and a blessing in the minds of dogs, going back to normal life is the last thing they want. Be alert to signs your dog is going through a hard time and try to ease the transition back to normal life.