Pet Separation Anxiety
With our current lockdown situation your pet is probably enjoying spending more time with you. There is no more hustle and bustle first thing in the morning as you leave the house, followed by hours of alone time as they wait for your return. Instead they are relishing the additional love and affection and growing more accustomed to it. Many have referred to this as a ticking time bomb, as at some point lockdown will be lifted. The Dog’s Trust charity are concerned that some dogs will suffer severe separation anxiety when their human has to return to work unless some steps are taken now to prepare them.
Here are some signs of Separation Anxiety
- Destructive Chewing - some pups get up to mischief when they are left alone at home, but generally dogs are well behaved. Dogs suffering from Separation anxiety tend to chew when they are upset and often this is on something that smells like you, maybe your favourite jumper!
- Excessive Pacing – nervous energy can make dogs pace randomly around the house or walking the same line repeatedly.
- Panicking before you leave – shadowing you before you leave the house, frantic walking round the house and leaning up against you.
- Constantly vocalising – Some anxious dogs will make constant noise while you are away - some dogs are just noisy but if this is unusual for your pup this can be a sign of separation anxiety.
- Accidents indoors – this can happen with even the best trained pup but if this is constant and elevated when you are not there it could be separation anxiety.
Separation Anxiety can be triggered by different things for different pets.
- Puppies or new pets being left alone for the first time.
- Being left alone after a long time spent with constant human contact.
- Suffering a traumatic event, especially seen in shelter or rescue dogs
- Change in the family's routine or structure, or the loss of a family member or other pet.
Some breeds such as Labradors, Poodles and Bichon Frises are more people pleasing breeds and have tight bonds with owners. These breeds may be more likely to suffer separation anxiety. Bulldogs, Whippets and Shar Peis are examples of dogs often considered more independent, but each dog is unique and you may find this differs for your pet.
When lockdown is eased your dog, who previously had been content while you were at work, may exhibit some of the signs of separation anxiety, and those with mild anxiety might suffer more severely. Big changes are hard for us to process as humans and this is no different for our four-legged friends, but what steps can we take now, during lockdown, help make this transition less stressful for them?
- Try and keep as normal a routine as possible during lockdown – walking time, feeding time, and play time. If you’re working from home and can’t get out for a walk then make time for games and activities. See our Blog post What Stressed the Dogs Out? for ideas on entertaining your dog during isolation.
- If you are working from home try not to give you dog more attention than normal – I know this is hard (they are super cute!), but showering them with affection will make things more difficult when you return to work.
- It is particularly important that your pet has time each day without human contact, whether in a different room, in their crate with a toy, or outside on their own in a secure garden.
- Try leaving your dog to go outside alone for a few minutes, to the garden or just outside the front door. This will make these exit cues familiar again and so hopefully not as much of a shock when you return to work.
After lockdown you may find it takes some time for your pet to readjust to the new routine. Here are some tips to help them once you’ve returned to work.
- When lockdown is eased and you return to work more exercise may help your dog– Exercise is fun, it releases endorphins but it also will tire your dog so they are more likely to sleep while you are away.
- Don’t make a big deal of coming or going – don’t comfort too much before you go as this can be understood as rewarding the dog’s nervous behaviour. And as tempting as it is, don’t make a big announcement on your return.
- Desensitize your dog to exit cues by mixing up your exit routine and practising alone time for your pup.
- Make their crate fun and a safe space – If you use a crate for your dog you could add toys to entertain them or an item of your clothing or a favourite toy for comfort. Often cave-like crates can be more comforting, but make sure these are secure and 100% safe for your pet with plenty of ventilation and no dangerous parts they can chew.
- Keep your dog occupied – Rogz range have some great toys to keep your dog entertained.
- Adopt another dog – The addition of another dog can help with anxiety but only if the pets bond. This is not a decision to made impulsively and the full responsibility of caring for multiple pets must be considered.
- Consider using a calming supplement such as YuCalm or Serene-Um
If you are worried that your dog’s anxiety is uncontrollable please talk to your Vet who can help identify the triggers and causes - you may be able to make changes to routines and life that will help. The issue may be more overwhelming and this may require medication, but this is an assessment that a vet can make.