Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Many people are impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, in all walks of life. Some are under strict quarantine or under stay-at-home orders. This has affected everyone, and in many cases, more people are staying at home than usual spending more time with their furry friends. While our dogs love this, as it is not what they are used to, this will come to an end and life will return to what is (relatively) normal.
As stay-at-home orders are being steadily lifted across the United Kingdom, it is important to prepare your dogs for not spending 24/7 with you.
How This Can Impact Your Dogs
Our dogs have spent a lot more time with us than they are used to, it will certainly be an abrupt change when they no longer see you all day, every day. This, in turn, can give our dogs a lot of stress and anxiety. More specifically, our dogs can develop intense separation anxiety if they are just cut-off cold turkey from contact with us. They are used to spending 24 hours a day with us at this point, but when we begin to return to normal life, they might be spending 8+ hours alone by themselves with no contact with us.
Separation anxiety can come in many forms, in many dogs, it is shown through destructive behaviors, like chewing up couches, chairs, or even remotes. While in others they may stop eating and drinking water when you are not around. In all cases, a dog with separation anxiety can negatively impact both their life and yours.
A good starting point is to begin slowly increasing the time that you are not with your dog. Try practicing small periods of time away from your pup. You can start this in 15-minute increments.
Essentially, we are trying to show our dog that when we leave, we are not leaving forever. Try experimenting with different amounts of time, rather than 15-minute increments. Mixing it up will help reinforce this practice and increase your dog’s comfort with time away from you. This can take some time, but it is important to keep reinforcing the idea that you will never leave forever.
Once small periods of time become easier to handle for your pup, slowly start introducing your daily routine back into life. This can be helpful for both you and your pup, as you both will need to prepare for a normal life. Try leaving at the time of day you would normally leave your house, take a drive for an hour or two and come back. This will just go on to increase your dog’s comfort when you are out of the house.
Many dogs associate various cues with times that you will leave. For example, putting on your shoes, or grabbing your keys. This can immediately increase their stress and anxiety in the situation. Luckily, you can work at decreasing the effects on your dog by putting on your shoes and walking around your house or carrying your keys around the house and not leaving. When doing this, throw your dog a toy or give them a treat. This way these cues will instead be associated with something positive, rather than something stressful like you being away for the whole day. Another tip is to give your dog something fun when you leave. This can be a special treat, a special toy, etc. Just make sure it is something that they will look forward to and not get many other times. This way they continue to develop the association of you leaving with something fun and not stressful, and they may even look forward to when you leave.