"Take small steps to ensure your companion is comfortable with being apart for long periods of time. Be aware of their behaviour and mood while you are away, by taking measures such as recording them."
Many people have needed to work from home this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which means that our furry friends have been able to enjoy our company for months on end. Dogs specifically will have loved the attention as they thrive off being sociable and enjoy the company of their owners.
When some sort of normality resumes, animals will need to be prepared to be alone for longer periods of time. This begs the question, can dogs can get separation anxiety?
Dogs can become incredibly anxious and distressed when we’re away. Dogs naturally live in family groups and are pack animals, so it isn’t surprising that these happy animals feel distressed when they’re left alone in a quiet house. Separation anxiety isn’t a term used just to describe a child’s development and attachment to their parent — sadly dogs can experience it too and we might not even be aware.
Does my dog have separation anxiety?
Be aware of changes in your dog’s behaviour. Symptoms of separation anxiety include:
· Displaying destructive behaviour and destroying things, which can arise from boredom and stress
· Appearing depressed
· Reports from neighbours of howling and barking when you’re away
· Physiological signs of fear like a fast heartbeat, rapid breathing, panting, and salivating
· Trembling, pacing, and whining
· Repetitive behaviour
· In extreme cases, self-mutilation and vomiting
Record your dog when you’re away to spot these signs — after all, we’ve had insight into what it’s like being stuck indoors with nothing to do. We wouldn’t want it for our best friend, so why do it to our dogs?
Is there any way to prevent anxiety in dogs?
Instead of making drastic changes that might unnerve your furry friend, make small, gradual changes to ease your dog into a new way of life.
Firstly, try not to smother your dog with lots of attention if you do normally, and instead provide a toy to keep them occupied so they get used to not getting stroked whenever they want. Build up your dog’s tolerance to your absence slowly, gradually leaving for longer periods of time so that when you’re back in the office full time, it won’t be a shock to the system. A good tip is to let your dog spend a few days in a doggie day care service to learn to be away from you.
If you want to take every precautionary measure to make your dog as happy as possible, consider appeasing pheromone sprays that are scientifically proven to help support dogs during stressful situations. Dogs have receptors located between the nose and mouth and when they identify a positive pheromone, this causes a calming effect. This is effective when travelling and to soothe anxiety through loud noises like thunder or fireworks.
If you live with other people and you are the primary feeder and walker, consider asking other members of your house to take over for a while or delegate different days so the responsibilities are shared. This way, your dog isn’t relying on one person for care. This will help your dog feel less abandoned when you’re away.
Give them plenty of things to do through the day including toys and puzzle treat dispensers so boredom doesn’t drive them to feel more anxious and distressed. Consider leaving music or the radio on so that they’re not in silence all day, which can exacerbate negative feelings.
Medication can also be a last resort if nothing is helping your pooch and their separation anxiety symptoms. You can get this by visiting your vet and getting a prescription. It’s also worth considering that fleas and ticks can cause stress and depression in pets, so make sure your dog is in the best health and comfort to reduce feelings of anxiety. You can do this with a flea bomb or creams. If you’re unsure what to do, seek medical advice for the best solution.
Some other tips:
· Although we know it’s hard to resist those adorable faces, try not to make a big deal out of arriving and departing from your dog, calmly pet them. Especially when you leave, do it fast, as long belly rubs and pats will only confuse your them.
· Teach your dog an action or word so they know you’ll be back.
· A balanced and nutritious diet.
Take small steps to ensure your companion is comfortable with being apart for long periods of time. Be aware of their behaviour and mood while you are away, by taking measures such as recording them to keep them safe and well.