Dogs love consistent routines day in and day out. Unfortunately, with the recent emergence of Coronavirus, our lives have been turned upside down with most of our time now spent at home.
All this extra time with our pets helps build and enhance a stronger bond. But sometimes, with some dogs, too much time could be the catalyst for hyper-attachment and the creation of separation anxiety. By taking some steps now, we can help our dogs easily transition back to regular day-to-day life.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is exhibited when an anxious dog is left completely on his own. It is a stress response that can manifest in a wide range of behaviors. Not all dogs will have separation anxiety, and not all dogs with separation anxiety will react the same way. Regardless of how the dog reacts, separation anxiety is not a healthy reaction or behavior and should be addressed as soon as there are signs.
Separation Anxiety: The Signs
- Barking, whining or howling
- Excessive drooling or panting
- Messing in the house
- Scratching at walls, doors and floors
- Escaping from a room or crate
- Destructive behaviors
While separation anxiety can be challenging for a dog owner, it is possible to prevent it from happening or modify it once it happens.
Prevention of Separation Anxiety:
It’s important to keep the bond with your dog and/or puppy healthy and balanced to avoid potential unhealthy behaviors. Some dogs are naturally clingier, but they also need to be encouraged to be more confident on their own.
It’s never too early to start!
But, how can you prevent separation anxiety with the Coronavirus forcing us to be home with them 24/7?
- Keep to your regular daily schedule as much as possible.
- If you normally crate your dog when you leave for work, continue doing so.
- Employ crate training to give your dog their own safe place.
- Ask your dog (even puppies) to leave you alone. Use:
- “Go to” (i.e., go to bed, go to crate, etc.)
Remember, it is ok and healthy to ask your dog to leave you alone, even if you are home. Make sure to create and use a release word so your dog learns to wait. Make this part of your daily training routine.
- Don’t allow your K9 to follow you everywhere. Use one of the commands above to discourage this behavior.
Addressing Separation Anxiety:
Pay attention to your pet! Notice their habits and patterns. Has your dog begun exhibiting signs of separation anxiety when you leave the house or even the room? Address it sooner rather than later. Keep in mind, it will take some time to recondition your dog’s reactions.
Try the tips below. If you see improvement, keep using them! If there is little to no improvement after a reasonable amount of time, bring in a canine behavior specialist to help. Remember, a stressed dog is not a happy dog.
- Try counter-conditioning. Offer a special treat, bone or puzzle toy to begin modifying your dog’s stressful reaction to your departure. You’re replacing their anxious reaction with a desirable one, their favorite treat or toy.
- What’s your daily routine before leaving the house? These actions are all triggers to an anxious dog that you are leaving them behind. Break down your routine into steps and begin slowly desensitizing them to each one.
- For example, grab your keys and calmly go outside or into another room. (Don’t let them follow you.) Start with short periods of time and work into longer ones as your dog gets comfortable and calm with each step.
- Each dog is different and will learn at their own pace. Do not push your dog to learn faster that will only add to his stress and anxiety.
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Canine Journal: How to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Pets.Webmd: How to Ease Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
Natural Dog Health Remedies: Separation Anxiety in Dogs
ASPCA: Separation Anxiety
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