Covid-19's Case for Separation Anxiety in Your Dog
With much of the community spending a lot more time at home, now more than ever seems like the best time to bring a new dog into your life. Whether you’re looking at taking on the exciting challenge of a new puppy or thinking of adopting a rescue, it’s no doubt that being at home more provides the perfect opportunity to spend one-on-one time bonding with your new dog.
However, being around for your dog at every minute of the day when they’re after a pat, feed, or just some company is not always the best idea.
We know. A new dog is always so exciting, and it’s hard to resist spending every waking moment with or around them – letting them sit with you on the lounge, inviting them into bed at night, or having them join you on every trip out of the house.
The issue is, dogs are more anxious than most owners would expect. Their receptiveness to humans means they can often mirror the emotions they express. Now with the strict regulations put in place by Governments due to the Covid-19 crisis, according to Vets, coming out of isolation might be more of a problem for our pets than it is for us.
We’re already beginning to see the effects that Covid-19’s mass confinement is putting on the stress and behaviour of some pets; one Client recently came to us for advice after their Dachshund pup had already begun reacting badly to their return-to-work schedule. Despite the Dachshund receiving regular walks every afternoon and plenty of attention when the owner was home, the owner was consistently returning home from work to find her house slowly being chewed to pieces by their young pup.
Dog Behaviour is fairly black-and-white, so it’s important to view any unusual or ‘naughty’ behaviour from your dog as something that should be assessed and worked on to ultimately benefit their state of mind. Our Client could have easily played off the chewing as ‘typical naughty puppy behaviour’, but instead she did the right thing by coming to us for some extra advice.
Recognising the Signs
Changing your dog’s behaviour is pretty simple if you're able to recognise the signs of Separation Anxiety. Separation Anxiety in dogs has been found to be the primary reason behind many frantic and destructive behaviours that pet parents often mistake for other behavioural problems. Treatment for separation anxiety is essential because it will make your dog calm and happy, which means you stop coming home to a house that’s half chewed-up!
Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Behavioural signs for Separation Anxiety in your dog could also include:
Ignoring their food
Coprophagia (i.e. Consuming feces)
Destroying items in the home
Scratching at furniture
Attempting to escape from a crate or room
Exuberantly greeting their owner as if they haven’t seen them in years
So What Can We Recommend?
Here are our best recommendations of treating Separation Anxiety issues in your dog:
1. Change Your “Going Away” Signals
Use a different door, put your coat on but don’t leave for 15 minutes, or leave your keys/purse/shoes in a different location. The goal is to break your dog’s association of these actions with your departure and not let them trigger separation anxiety. When you leave, give your dog a treat or a toy to play with to distract them. Calming treats for dogs can be used as a short-term remedy for separation anxiety. They will also teach your pooch that being alone is not scary and create positive associations with your departure.
2. Downplay Goodbyes and Hellos
Don’t get emotional when leaving your dog and overexcited when you come back. By paying too much attention to your departure and return, you risk reinforcing your dog’s fear of your absence. Calmly say goodbye and leave. When you come back, quietly say hello and don't get too affectionate until your dog has calmed down.
3. Make Sure Your Dog is Used to Being Alone When You’re Home
Tell your dog to stay in a room by themselves while you go to a different part of the house. If your dog has severe separation anxiety, start with small 5-10 second intervals and work up to 20-30 minutes over several weeks.
4. Create Their Own Personal Space
Instead of sleeping with your dog, get them a separate dog bed where you can also pet them and provide calming treats. This will teach your dog to enjoy having their own space and be independent of you, which will help ease their anxiety when you’re away from them.
5. Leave Comfort Items and Background Music On
Items that have your scent such as dirty laundry can help your dog relax and remember that you will come back. Remove stress factors such as chokers, collars, chains, or crates if your dog doesn’t like them. Hide treats around the house so they can hunt them while you're away. We also recommend leaving the TV/radio on for them as comforting background noise for while you’re gone.
6. Don’t Leave Your Dog Alone for Too Long!
Your dog can learn to be alone for part of the day, but try not to be away for longer than 6-8 hours. If possible, try structuring your errands so that you are only away for short periods of time.
8. Try Anxiety Treatment Pet Supplies
To treat severe separation anxiety in dogs, consider a calming medicine or natural treat (we recommend contacting your Vet to discuss what’s best suited for your dog’s needs). A dog swaddling jacket can also help ease your pup’s anxiety by applying constant gentle pressure to their body.
KONG toys and other similar products are also fantastic for entertaining your dog by engaging them to work for a treat, which can keep them busy for a long period of time.
What have you personally tried that has helped to reduce the stress and anxiety in your dog? Would you consider trialling our recommendations above? Let us know in the comments below.