Separation anxiety and COVID-19

by Amy Cooper
separation anxiety

Welcome to part one of a small three-part series over the next three weeks. On how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our beloved pooches and what we can do to help them. The first post of this series will be on separation anxiety and our return to work/school/’normal’ day to day life.

I’m sure all pet owners will be dreading the easing of lockdown restrictions and the inevitable return to ’normal’ day to day life. Some of the things you might be asking yourself are: Will my dog be ok when I leave it at home? Will I come back to a destroyed pillow and feathers all over the place? What can I do to make this transition easier for my dog? Well, look no further. In this post I will be sharing my favourite tips on how to help your dog transition back to being happy home alone. 

Will my dog be ok?

Well first and foremost yes, your dog will be ok. But, the more stressed and worried you are about leaving them the worse it will be for them. So, stay calm! Although your dog will be ok being left alone, they will find it lots easier when you do a few simple things to help them reacclimatise to being on their own. 

Will my dog wreak havoc in the house?

Inevitably your dog will damage the odd thing in your house, as I’m sure any dog owner will tell you. But you shouldn’t return to a disaster every time your dog is left. If your dog is scared, then they will be much more likely to damage things as an outlet. Don’t worry though as I will be giving you some basic tips and tricks for how to keep your dog contented on their own. So you won’t return home after a hard day at work to a bomb site! 

So, what can you do to help your dog combat separation anxiety?

1. Train your dog to be happy on their own

Train your dog to be happy on their own. From now until your return to work leave your dog for five minutes every so often in a room on their own or in their crate. Slowly increase the time they are left on their own until they are happy and quiet for an hour or so. But most importantly only return to your dog if it’s quiet and not making a fuss! Even if they only stop momentarily so your dog will learn that making a fuss doesn’t get them anywhere. They have to be calm and relaxed for you to come back and fuss them which is what they want.

2. Make a safe space for your dog

This can be a crate or a specific room where your dog is happy. Make sure there is your dog’s favourite bed, safe toys, water and nothing that could harm the dog left in this space whilst you aren’t home. This safe space is also where you will leave your dog in the training so your dog will associate the space with being relaxed and safe. 

3. Distract your dog

Dog with a toy

If your dog is food oriented this could be a stuffed Kong or a long lasting (but safe) chew. If your dog is toy oriented this could be a couple of their favourite toys. Both of these options will keep your dog distracted for hours so they won’t even realise you’re gone! You can also give one of these things to your dog whilst you are training so they will find it easier to take their mind off the fact that they are own their own.

4. Exercise your dog

dog walking in fields

If they are tired and have been for a good walk before you leave them, they will more than likely just sleep whilst you’re gone!

Ultimately you know your dog best. So, do what is right for them, if your dog likes listening to a bit of classical music then you could play that for them whilst you’re gone or if your dog prefers to just be left in their crate to sleep then let them do that. 

Finally, don’t panic your dog will be fine on their own! They just need time to get used to the change so they won’t develop separation anxiety.

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