Separation anxiety in dogs is a common problem. The number of affected dogs increased after our initial lockdown.
Anxiety has no identifiable root and sometimes we have to dig deep to find the cause (which is not always successful). It tends to stick around for longer than stress, and it’s more difficult to treat. It’s an uncomfortable inner feeling of fear, worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. We’ve all experienced anxiety at some point in our lives… it’s a normal human ( and dogs) reaction to some stress, disaster, or bad luck, however, some people are constantly anxious to the point where it’s abnormal and interferes with their life.
Now, what about dogs?
A reaction to a short-term, active stressor like an unexpected bang is normal but when those behaviours become routine, they may become… you guessed it… anxiety.
Signs of anxiety in dogs are:
Panting and trembling
Pacing and fidgeting
However what’s important to note is that some of these behaviours can be displayed for different reasons. For example, if a dog urinates or defecates in the house, he may have a urinary infection or an upset stomach. Has he been left in the house for too long with no chance to go outside? Making sure your dog has a full health check is important and never to be underestimated.
Destructive behaviour can also be a sign of boredom and barking could be caused by a stressor like a bin lorry or dogs outside etc. In this case, the stress typically goes away when the stressor disappears.
Monitoring your dog’s behaviour with an installed monitoring kit is always useful. A qualified dog behaviourist or a dog trainer will then be able to create a full picture of what’s going on and based on his/her observations create a plan of action for you and your dog. Just like with anything else… one size definitely doesn’t fit all.
How can you reduce the likelihood of separation anxiety in dogs after lockdown?
If you’re currently at home with your dog all the time it would be a good idea to start introducing a few minutes here and there where your dog is left on its own. This way you can test whether your dog is happy and comfortable alone and on the other hand, you’ll soon find out if he or she suffers from separation anxiety.
Prevention is better than cure so if you’re worried about leaving your pup alone once restrictions have been lifted, here are a few things you can start implementing immediately.
A stair gate can help you train your pup to relax when he is on his own. Start leaving your puppy in a room behind the stair gate throughout the day for a few minutes. If you start feeling anxious about it, take a few deep breaths while inhaling Comfort Blend yourself. You can also put a drop or two on your pup’s bed. It’s also a good idea to leave him/her with a chew or toy, such as a stuffed Kong, to keep him entertained 😊.
After a few days slowly increase the amount of time your dog is left behind the gate. Until your dog is comfortable with you being completely out of sight. Gradually keep increasing the time you leave your pup alone. Some puppies and even older dogs find this process very easy and don’t mind being left alone. While others need more time. Take your time and be patient but persistent while trying to understand what your dog is dealing with.