Separation Anxiety – How to help your dog prepare for the end of lockdown
This week ITV reported a new aspect to he easing of lockdown that is going to affect thousands of dogs and their owners. After being used to having them at home for several months, many dogs are going to be forlorn once their owners return to work and the canine charity Dogs Trust suggest that the potential for separation anxiety in dogs is a 'ticking time bomb' that is going to cause lots of problems for pets post-lockdown.
According to Dogs Trust there are an estimated 8.5 million dogs in the UK, with 24% of households owning at least one pooch - so this is going to become a big issue for a large percentage of the population, very soon. As we begin to return to work and prepare to spend more time away from home many dogs who have enjoyed seeing their owners 24/7 are going to be confused and upset at being left home alone once more and may become distressed or destructive in the home environment. Many pet owners have noticed how much their dogs are enjoying their company and some have become ‘inseparable’, so the sooner people begin to train their dog to accept change, the better.
Sad dog - Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash
A Ticking Time Bomb
Some dogs have never been without their owners. People who got puppies just before lockdown have been able to give them their undivided attention and this will cease once the country begins to return to ‘normal’, with owners returning to work or school during the day and dogs being left home alone for several hours.
Dogs Trust believe that lockdown has made many dogs more vulnerable to separation anxiety and distress, with dogs that have been adopted from shelters are particularly susceptible to the condition.
Rachel Casey, director of canine behaviour and research at the animal welfare charity explains how we can prepare our dogs for our return to work, by starting now and building up the amount of time spent alone:
“For many of us it has been great to spend so much time with our dogs during lockdown and mostly our dogs love us being around too. But all this extra attention could potentially create a ticking time bomb of separation anxiety for our dogs.
“If they expect us to be about all the time, it will be more difficult for them to cope once we go back to our normal lives and aren’t in the house 24/7
“Now is the time to act to avoid future problems – and it’s easy to do. Just make sure that you factor in time apart from your dog each day to help them be able to cope when alone – this could be separated from you by a door or child gate for an hour or two whilst you’re working or home schooling the kids.
“By organising your dog’s day, with time apart, play times, exercise, other activity sessions (like giving them a food filled toy) and quiet times, you can make sure that your dog maintains their ability to cope with the different aspects of ‘normal’ life when we get back to it.”
Sad black labrador - Photo by Isabela Kronemberger on Unsplash
Some breeds are more susceptible to separation anxiety than others – with Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Border Collies, Cocker Spaniels, Bichon Frises, Vizslas, Toy Poodles and Grerman Pointers topping the list – so if you own any of these breeds you need to start preparing your unlockdown strategy now and training your dog to learnt to live without you – for a few hours at least.
Border Collie - Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash
How bad can it be?
What’s the worst that can happen if you leave your dog alone? Whilst they might be safe from physical harm, they can become extremely distressed. They may bark or howl, relieve themselves indoors or tear up your wallpaper, carpet, furniture or possessions. The Dog’s Trust has some excellent info on their website explaining what is happening from the dog’s point of view, along with some tips on how to get them to calm down or settle. If you acknowledge that this may become a problem and start to do something about it now, then as lockdown eases your dog should hopefully feel calm and secure once the time comes for them to left at home for longer periods of time.
Lap dog - Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Dog Salons start to reopen
Whilst ensuring that your dog feels safe and secure should be a top priority as we begin to ease lockdown restrictions, the next thing on your list should be a decent haircut and we loved these before and after pics from Bone Idol - a grooming salon in Brighton, which has reopened recently. 350 customers called to book an appointment in the first few days and it looks like there are a lot of dogs out there that need trimming right now. So whilst this has been a difficult time for dog groomers, we are confident that most of them will bounce back as the dog hair keeps on growing and it’s certainly not going to cut itself.
Not everyone is thrilled that the salons are opening again - Photo by Nishizuka on Pexels
Are you worried about how separation anxiety is going to affect your dog – perhaps you have some good tips for managing separation? Let us know in the comments below!
Main Photo by Tillmann Hübner on Unsplash