While a nation-wide lockdown has seen a decline in retail sales, a rapid increase in pet adoption has been a saving grace for local shelters adopting out hundreds of pets across the country. A number of people have lost their jobs, had hours reduced, on campus students moved to online and others being asked to work from home. With many having to adapt a new way of living, a need for company has risen which has included finding comfort in a furry new friend.
However, while this may be a perfect arrangement for pet and owner, what happens once these restrictions are lifted? Separation from owner is one of the most common causes of anxiety in dogs and can create a myriad of issues if not addressed.
Signs of stress in dogs can take many forms, these may look like: weeing inside (even if toilet trained), constant panting and licking, pacing around, drooling, barking, destructive and aggressive behaviour. This can end up being quite stressful for the owner when it comes to leaving the house and with people spending more time at home more than ever, this is a growing concern for many once communities begin to return to ‘normal’.
But do not fret!
If you’re concerned about going back to work and leaving your four-legged friend on their own, there are tips and tricks that can help you prevent these types of behaviours.
Before heading back to the daily grind, start by taking trips out of the house and leaving your pup alone for small periods of time (i.e. 30 min). Do this a few times and then slowly begin to increase the time you are out for; this will help ease the transition of you leaving you pooch alone whilst you’re at work.
When leaving and returning to your home, try to not to make a big deal about leaving your dog alone. Dogs are very good at reading body language and if you are acting nervously or make a big dramatic exit or entrance, then they are more likely to get worked up and anxious about the situation. Try to use a calming demeanour and you may even like to associate a word for when you leave so that over time, your dog will know you’re coming back when this word is spoken.
When you do need to leave your dog at home and worry they might become destructive, try enriching their mind with a distracting toy. There are many puzzle toys out there for dogs and a few examples could be:
- Lickimat – these can be spread with fresh mince, peanut butter, wet food, frozen with stock on a hot day, dry food soaked in warm water/stock, cream cheese or any other sticky treats!
- Kong products (classic, wobblers, quest) – Kong has a huge range of distracting toys that bounce erratically, wobble and roll and can be filled with many creative concoctions like those mentioned above.
- Nina Ottoson puzzles – this range features different levels of difficulty and can encourage brain stimulation which can tire them out as much as a walk.
- DIY solutions – hanging rope from a tree in your backyard, putting treats in a toilet roll, wrapping a plastic bottle in fabric & homemade doggy icey poles.
All these suggestions (and more) can help keep your day to day entry and exit stressfree and exciting every time without repeating the same tricks that your dog may pick up on or get bored of.
Don’t forget to mix it up! Giving your dog the same old toy every day with the same old filling can get boring for them and become a problem for you. If your dog is no longer excited about his toy then he will no longer be distracted. If you sense your dog is getting bored of a toy that was once his favourite, don’t throw it out, simply put it in the cupboard for a few days/weeks and then bring it out and watch your dog react as if a new toy has arrived. You can do this with all their toys and rotate them to keep your dog happy!
It is recommended to speak to your Vet any time before administering a new treatment to your dog, especially if it is to treat a specific behaviour.
However there are numerous calming treatments that you can buy off the shelf at most independent pet stores.
PAW Complete Calm chews are kangaroo based with Tryptophan, B group vitamins and a blend of multivitamins and nutrients. Tryptophan can assist with dogs who suffer from stress and anxiety related behaviours.
Pet Potion is a hemp seed oil that carries an array of healthy benefits including allergy and pain relief, inflammatory assistance and cognitive disorders and brain health. It is natural and true superfood that is good for the inside and outside of your pets body.
These are a couple of options amongst many that are available out there to assist your pets anxious behaviours, pop into your local pet store to find out more.
Other things to consider may be; hiring a dog walker to take your dog on adventures during the days you’re out of the house, puppy play dates with friends/neighbours that also have dogs at home during the day & doggy day care centres so your pooch can socialise and play without you having to worry what they’re doing to occupy themselves alone at home.
If you wish to find out more, Dr Kate, who is a PhD qualified Animal Behaviourist has created a FREE guide for you to download that will walk you through separation anxiety with your pet and give you steps to minimise the stress on you and your pet. Please follow the link below: