Most Pets Will Adjust
During the quarantine period, Bingo was living his best life, even with his hospital therapy dog work canceled and dog parks closed, Alford says. They went on lots of walks together she lost 15 pounds, he lost 2 1/2 and explored new terrain.
Now, Alford worries Bingo may get bored or lonely and feels guilty she’s away for up to nine hours a day.
Experts say pets left home alone before the pandemic likely will adjust fine over time. New puppies and kittens who’ve only known life with everyone home may struggle.
“We do not have evidence that separation anxiety diagnoses will increase with people returning to work outside the home with this pandemic, says Danielle Winkelman, a behavior therapy technician at the Veterinary Behavior Center in Boulder, Colorado. However, she says, some symptoms of separation anxiety in pets are known to occur during or after life transitions in general.”
Alan Roberts, 55, has been working from home in New York City with his feline pals Poca and Mooski since March. His constant presence has changed their behavior. They are much less needy. They’re very, very chill, he says. If it was up to them, this would never end.”
But Roberts is looking for a work space that better suits his professional needs, which will mean time away from his cats. He isn’t too worried about feline anxiety or loneliness because they have each other adding, They’re older, too, so they don’t tend to act out as much.
Provide A Window View Of The Outside World
Since one of the major causes of separation anxiety in dogs is being left alone or unattended for a period of time, you can make things easier for your dog.
Providing a clear window view of the outside world for your dog will go a long way to keep him busy while you step out for other things.
You can set up a small step for your dog to climb up to the window and see what is happening around your area, especially if you live in an area that is usually busy in the daytime.
For you to achieve this, you must make sure that you properly socialize your dog to avoid them barking at people or other pets they see from the window, also make the window easy to access.
Does Pavlov Ring A Bell Use Classical Conditioning To Create Positive Associations With Being Alone
- Prepare a yummy and long-lasting food puzzle or work-to-eat toy . This should be something they dont get very often something super valuable in your dogs opinion.
- Right before you walk out the door, give this special treat to your dog in their crate or long-term confinement area.
- Keep your absences very short when you begin classically conditioning your dog to being alone. Try to return before they finish their food puzzle the first few times you do this you dont have to completely leave the house at first, just be out of sight. Taking the trash out or walking to the mailbox are great opportunities to practice this exercise.
- When you return home, immediately remove their yummy puzzle or work-to-eat toy and put it away.
- Gradually increase the length of time youre absent.
- Your dog is learning that your leaving predicts something delicious appearing and they get to enjoy something positive while alone. Theyre also learning that that yummy thing disappears when you come back.
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What Should I Do If I Come Home To A Mess
If your dog has been anxious during your departure, and this has led to destruction or house soiling, then anything you do may increase your dogâs anxiety, making matters worse for future departures and it will not correct what has already been done. Therefore both punishment and excited greetings must be avoided. At homecomings, ignore your dog until she settles down . Your dog should soon learn that the faster she settles, the sooner she will get your attention.
Where Do I Start
Before you can begin, be certain that your dog has a sufficiently enriched environment and a predictable daily routine . In addition, all rewards should be identified to ensure that they are only being given for those behaviors that you want to train and not for attention seeking or following. In other words, you should use the very rewards that your dog is seeking to teach independent behavior and to spend time relaxing away from you . Until you can get your dog to settle and relax while you are at home, he is unlikely to settle when you leave.
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But What Does Separation Anxiety In A Dog Look Like
The exact symptoms differ from puppy to puppy.
Signs of separation anxiety in dogs include:
- Excessive vocalization such as whimpering, crying, barking, or howling
- Heavy panting
As you can see, separation anxiety can be both upsetting and cause major problems such as property damage. In severe cases, dogs have also been known to hurt themselves in their distress, so this problem must be properly addressed.
Where Can I Get Professional Help
If your dog does go on to display ongoing signs of separation anxiety, it is important not to ignore these and to contact your vet who can refer you to an accredited behaviourist. Theyll be able to fully assess your dog to find out why they dont cope with being left alone and come up with a treatment plan to help. How separation problems are treated will be individual to each dog, so it is important to seek professional advice to help guide you through the problem.
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How To Prevent Separation Anxiety In Puppies
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The good news is, theres an easy way to prevent separation anxiety in puppies.
Unlike the old days, when canines used to live outside helping people on their farms, today most dogs spend much of their time inside the house, while their owners are away.
Therefore, its no surprise that more and more dogs are starting to show signs of separation anxiety, whether theyre puppies or adults.
However, what you need to know is that preventing separation anxiety is much easier than fixing it.
In fact, there are a few simple things you can do, starting today, to avoid having to deal with this problem later on.
So lets talk about what the symptoms of separation anxiety may look like in puppies, and what you should do to avoid encouraging this behavior.
Expect An Adjustment Period
A dog with true separation anxiety will excessively bark, chew, dig, destroy, and try to escape. Now I know what you’re thinking but my puppy cries when I leave her alone.
This doesnt mean your puppy has separation anxiety Usually, it means they havent been taught how to self-soothe just yet.
Yes, they will cry but we have to teach them how to self-soothe and remain calm and relaxed in your absence. Otherwise, youre never going to get your puppy over their anxiousness when youre not home.
When puppies are really young and are still with their littermates and mother, they cry for their mother, who comes running back to care for her pups needs. So your pups natural instinct is cry and wait for attention.
But even a dog mom eventually weans her pup of this behavior as the puppy grows and becomes more capable and independent.
This is why its important that you dont come running back every time your pup cries when you leave because doing so continually reinforces the crying behavior.
Its ok to immediately respond to puppys cries when your pup is 8 weeks and younger. But after that, its time to help them work towards the next developmental stage in their life.
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Practice This Training Periodically Throughout The Day
Youre going to want to give your pup some alone time in their crate and puppy pen periodically throughout the day.
After eating and going out to potty, young puppies are generally ready for a nap. This is a great time for your pup to go into his crate.
When puppy wakes up, he will need to go potty again and will likely want to play. This may be when you play catch or chase and work on training important commands like sit, stay, come.
Then its time for some independent play time in his puppy pen with an enrichment toy.
Putting your pup in their crate periodically throughout the day is important for more than preventing puppy separation anxiety.
Puppies need naps and downtime otherwise they get overstimulated. An overstimulated puppy gets cranky, bitey, and cant focus or stop unwanted behaviors easily.
Crate time helps prevent over-stimulation by giving your puppy a safe, comfortable place to relax and nap.
Its beneficial for your pups mental health and well being when you teach them that its ok to be away from you for periods of time.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Separation Problems
Your dog might feel different emotions such as fear, frustration, and panic when left alone. Common signs that they are feeling anxious when left alone include:
- Destruction of bedding, furniture carpets or belongings
- Inappropriate toileting indoors
- Barking, whining or being vocal
- Pacing or being restless
- Attempting to escape.
Some dogs may not show any of these signs and become depressed and do nothing at all when their owner leaves. Investing in a pet camera can give you a good idea of how they are feeling when you are away from home.
Many things can affect separation anxiety in dogs their genetics, personality and previous negative experiences which may have added to their fears and anxieties. In some cases, when our dogs were puppies they might have missed out on some of the really important training they needed to help them feel happy when being left alone. Puppies need to be taught when theyre young that its OK to be on their own and have a little bit of independence from their owners.
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Do Puppies Grow Out Of Separation Anxiety
The simple answer is, normally not.
While some breeds are more prone to suffering from anxiety than others, all dogs are born with the instinct to stay in a group or a pack. Its because of this pack mentality they become frustrated and insecure when we leave them alone.
Since this response is encoded deep within our canines DNA, the best way to deal with this is to start practicing a technique called behavior modification.
This is a training method that entails teaching your dog to replace unwanted behaviors with appropriate ones by using positive reinforcement.
What that means is that in order to teach your puppy to stay calm when you go out, you need to divert his attention to something he finds more exciting. Ill explain more about this below.
Create A Soothing Environment
Think about how your puppys environment looks and sounds when the whole family is home. Someone is probably watching TV in the living room, and all the lights are on by nightfall. There might be a radio or the sound of a shower droning in the background.
One way to reduce your puppys separation anxiety is by making it seem like someone is home. Try leaving the TV or radio on a low volume and turn a few lights on if youre planning to get home late.
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Stop Exit Stress Signals
Stop all exit signals like picking up your keys that can trigger off separation anxiety in dogs.
When you leave for the day or return, dont make a big deal about it. Use the no touch, no talk, no eye contact method during departure.
When you return home, Cesar Way says, youre telling your dog that being away isnt a huge thing.
Its just another day at work! You may need to exercise the rule for five minutes or up to an hour before leaving and returning, depending on the intensity of the dogs fear.
The Steps You Need To Follow Are:
1. Establish a predictable routine
Since your dog is anxious, you need to begin by making his day calmer and more predictable whether you are home or away. Establish a daily routine so that your dog can begin to predict when he can expect attention and when he should be prepared for inattention . Try to schedule these times for object play and naps at times when you would normally depart.
2. Environmental enrichment – meeting your dog’s needs
During the times when you are interacting with your dog, make sure that you are meeting all of his needs for social interactions, play, exercise, training, and elimination. In effect, you should initiate enough regular interactive sessions and provide enough play and attention so that when each session is over, your dog is prepared to settle down and relax. At this point, new exploratory and chew toys can be given so that your dog has novel and motivating toys on which to focus when it is time to settle. Feeding toys can also replace standard food bowls to make feeding time more of a mental and physical effort.
3. Establish a predictable protocol for rewards
If your dog has separation anxiety, itâs likely that your dog’s favored rewards are the attention and play that you provide. Treats, food, play and chew toys may also be highly desirable.
“What behavior does my pet need to learn and what behavior should I never reinforce?”
4. Train âsettleâ .
5. Develop an area and surface for relaxation
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Dog Walkers And Doggy Day Care
There are lots of professional dog walking or pet sitting services available where someone can come to your home to walk your dog and spend time with them whilst you are out.
You can find pet sitters and dog walkers through the National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers.
Doggy day care and other day boarding services might be available in your area where you can drop your dog off to be cared for. Youll need to keep your dogs vaccinations up to date as there will often be more than one dog present.
Give Your Dog A Safe Comfortable Space Of Their Own
Make sure you leave your dog in a safe area of the house so if they do try to chew or destroy anything they cant be injured. Make sure its the right temperature and they have a safe comfortable bed to relax in.
Some dogs will happily use a dog flap to get out into a secure garden if they need the toilet. If a dog flap isnt suitable for your home, someone will need to come and let them out regularly so they can have a toilet break.
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