For months now, many of us have been lucky to be quarantined at home, thick as thieves with our pets, but as states cautiously lift stay at home orders put in place due to coronavirus, this extra time may be coming to an end. As we gradually ease ourselves back into our new normal, now is a good time to start preparing our dogs for the time when they won’t be with their moms and dads 24/7.
Some dogs might react to this change in schedule by showing signs of separation anxiety. Signs to look out for include:
- Barking, howling, or whining when you leave (not just in response to noises outside of the home), especially for longer than 30 seconds.
- Scratching or chewing at entrances and exits (doors/windows)
- Destructive behavior that only happens when the dog is alone
- Over-grooming or other self-harm or obsessive behaviors
- A change in appetite
Most pets don’t like sudden or abrupt changes so it’s good to gradually ease your pup back into your previously normal routine.
Janelle Metiva CPDT-KA, a dog behavior specialist at Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles, created a guide to get dogs prepared for a little more alone time once again.
Metiva suggests theses steps:
- Create a safe, comfortable place where they can have peaceful, relaxing alone time. This could be a crate or separate room, just make sure it’s the quietest part of the house.
- Provide them with enrichment that can be enjoyed independently, such as hidden treats in boxes, food puzzles, stuffed Kongs, etc.
- Play soothing music such as reggae, smooth jazz, or classical, or play the TV or radio to stations like the BBC or NPR while you’re gone to keep them from being startled by outside noises. You can also try a white noise machine.
- Reward your dog for calm, independent behavior (especially if they’re usually clingy). We tend to pay attention to dogs only when they’re active or even misbehaving. They should be rewarded for being calm and chill.
- Practice leaving for short periods of time to run essential errands or go for a walk:
- If your dog shows signs of panic, decrease the amount of time that you leave, even if for just a few seconds.
- If your dog barks or paws at the door when you leave, come back only when they’re quiet.
- If your dog has trouble being alone for even brief periods of time — consult a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) who usually due virtual consultations.
By taking these steps now, pet owners can help prevent stress for both themselves and their pets in the future.