Updated: Jun 25, 2021
With the end of lockdown in sight, there's much excitement at the thought of being able to resume our regular lives. But while we start to get out and enjoy doing more things, it means we'll be spending less time in the house leaving our pets home alone.
Since Covid-19 first hit, more than 3.2million UK households got a new pet and we've spent more time at home with our four-legged friends than ever before. So as the rules relax and we start leaving the house more often, it could leave our furry friends feeling anxious.
To help, Sean McCormack, Head Vet at tails.com, shares his top tips for preventing and treating separation anxiety in dogs, as well as how to prepare your pooch for returning to a pre-pandemic life...
Gradual training Start getting your dog used to being home alone again by allowing time apart inside the house. So when you're working or doing chores, leave your dog in another room. Then, slowly get them used to you leaving the house. Leave for 2 minutes, then 5, then 10, gradually increasing these bouts of separation. Do this a few times each day and your dog will soon learn to trust that you’re not leaving forever and you will be back. Try not to make a fuss over them when you return though as it will reinforce that your departure is a big deal.
Keep your dog entertained When you can't be at home together, use treat toys to distract your dog so they don’t have the time to miss you. Stuff a Kong with their favourite snack or spread some peanut butter (xylitol free) onto a Lickimat. A fun-filled activity like this will help keep them occupied and entertained, making them less likely to be anxious.
Play hard to get sometimes Your dog needs to understand that although you love them to pieces, they can't have your attention 100% of the time. It might be tough but try to ignore your pup on certain occasions, especially if they’re being particularly demanding or attention-seeking. Avoid all forms of attention including petting them or even looking in their direction.
Mix up your leaving cues Dogs are good at learning exit routines so they soon realise that when you grab your coat or keys it means you're leaving them. Bring the anxiety around that down by making your movements unpredictable. Try carrying out your leaving cues but don't leave the house. Put on your shoes and sit down for a couple of hours in front of the TV or pick up your keys, pop a jacket on, leave the house, come back in, then undo these actions and repeat. Soon enough, your dog won’t feel anxious whenever they see or hear a particularly triggering cue.
It’s a good idea to be mindful of how your dog may react outside the home too. There may be other people and dogs they haven’t seen in a while, which could make them nervous or fearful. Think about how you’ll manage that so your pooch and others have a positive experience when out and about.
If you start preparing your dog for their new normal now, you'll have a much happier pooch at home once it’s time to get back to the office or enjoy a well-deserved day out.
Consistency is key, so everyone at home will need to be on board and stick with the training process. Remember though that every dog is different. If your pooch is struggling to adjust, a qualified behaviourist is the next best step in helping to solve any issues.
Blog post by tails.com