The global Covid-19 pandemic has uprooted all of our lives, and for most, has meant more time spent at home with our families and pets. Changes in routine are not just challenging for us humans; it can be especially hard on our pups. Check out these 5 Tips to Help Reduce Separation Anxiety in Our Pets During Covid. Separation anxiety is much easier to prevent than it is to reverse, and these tips can be used to train a puppy brought home during a lockdown or to retrain a dog experiencing symptoms.
1. KEEP A REGULAR ROUTINE
As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease in some areas, you may find you are spending less time at home than you have been. This can be hard on our pets who have gotten used to the extra time and attention they've received over the last several months. Since the pandemic is ongoing, we should take steps to help our pets adapt regardless of how our day to day may continue to evolve. Maintain a consistent number of mealtimes and walks whether you're home more often or not. Try to keep daily activities at the same time, preferably early morning or evening, to make it easier to continue in the weeks and months to come.
2. PREPARE YOUR PET FOR BEING ALONE
If you've been at home for long stretches at a time, begin making it a point to spend a few hours a day away from your pet. Even if you're only leaving for a walk or spending time on the other side of the house, treat it as though it will be an extended absence. Get them used to the environment they will occupy when you're really gone. If you're in the house, feel free to listen to how their doing, but do your best to make them believe you're gone and try not to react to every whimper you hear. This helps to prepare them for your absence and gets them comfortable with the idea of being alone.
3. CALM DEPARTURES
Leaving your pup alone can be hard, but it is essential to keep in mind that they will feed off of your energy. Demonstrate that your departure is no big deal, and you will be returning. This means keeping your emotions in check, using a calm and steady voice, and not dragging things out too long. Avoid getting them overly excited right before making your exit, as this can make it challenging to settle them before you leave.
You want them to learn that:
- They are safe in their crate/area of the house
- Your coming and going is a part of life
- Remaining calm and being patient will reap the rewards (like treats and attention)
You want to AVOID teaching them that:
- It's a big deal when you leave or are not present
- When they act out/whine/bark, you will come running
- They can't feel secure without you being close by
4. FAMILIAR NOISES & SCENTS
Surrounding your dog with familiar smells while alone will reduce anxiety and help keep them relaxed. Try leaving behind an old sweater or t-shirt with your scent, especially if they're younger. Some dogs respond well when using low-level background noise like a radio or T.V. Test this out while you're still close so you can monitor how they respond (you don't want them barking at that strange noise the entire time you're gone).
5. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Signs and symptoms of separation anxiety can come in many forms. Keep an eye out for:
- Excessive salivation and/or licking at paws
- Sweaty paws
- Having accidents only when left alone and after successful house-training
- Ongoing barking and/or whining
- Destruction of household items, i.e., shoes, pillows, magazines, plants, a.k.a. anything within reach
- Excessive scratching at doors, walls or windows (sometimes to the point of injury)
- Attempts to escape from the crate or room they've been put in
- Sudden lethargy and disinterest in food or activity
- Restlessness or a change in behavior when you begin to prepare to leave the house
The best way to encourage your dog to stay calm and well behaved while you are away is to give them positive reinforcement for their good behavior and ignoring unwanted behavior. Even negative attention can feel like a reward when they think it's getting you to respond. Give them a treat, like a "Whole Life Dog Food Biscuit", when they remain calm during short absences and upon your return.