Social distancing has changed my perspective on the life of a dog. As a homebody, I thought I would thrive in isolation: fewer social commitments, more home-cooked meals, and not a pair of jeans in sight. Needless to say, the novelty is long gone and I now anxiously await my husband’s return from work so I can finally interact with another human… and maybe even go for a walk!
When life returns to “normal” (whatever that may be), our dogs are going to experience similar feelings of social withdrawal. Currently, they are enjoying the extra time and attention from their beloved humans, but these conditions are perfect for creating separation anxiety.
What are the signs of Separation Anxiety?
Overly attached dogs might follow you around or crave physical affection. When left alone, they may manifest their anxiety as vocalization, destruction, or house soiling. Upon sensing an impending departure, they may shake, shiver, salivate, refuse to eat, or become restless or quiet and withdrawn.
What can I do to prevent Separation Anxiety?
Focus on routine and rewards. A consistent routine will include time for enrichment (food toys, new experiences, and learning new tricks), regular exercise, and scheduled time alone to help your dog to learn self-sufficiency. If you have adopted a puppy during this pandemic, you will need to work extra hard to ensure these habits are established now. Before rewarding your dog with attention or a treat, ask yourself: “What behavior does my dog need to learn? What behavior should I never reinforce?” and only reward them when they are calm.
What if my dog already has Separation Anxiety?
Continue to enforce routine and rewards, while altering any habits that may be contributing to your dog’s anxiety, such as rewarding them with attention upon returning home or punishing them for making messes. It can be difficult to break these tendencies on your own, so use all your resources and do not hesitate to also contact your veterinarian and a professional dog trainer for advice early on.
Our furry family members have certainly helped us cope through this pandemic. Let’s ensure that we do the same for them when it’s over. After all, no matter what species we are, we’re all in this together!
Dr. I. Wonder is here to answer your questions regarding your furry family members. If you have a question, email it to us at danielle@NeighbourhoodPetClinic.com. Our team at Neighbourhood Pet Clinic will tap into their collective experience to answer your various questions.