Will our dogs develop separation anxiety post lockdown and can we prevent it?
Lockdown, a word none of us used much prior to 2020, we are all affected in some way, but what effect is it having on our dogs. Our dogs are more than likely loving lockdown, having people around all day, getting increased attention, and plenty of belly rubs. Doggy paradise you would think, but what issues will we owners have to deal with during and after lockdown.
At the start of lockdown, I thought it would be a great opportunity to spend quality time with my adorable golden lab Mac. He has an amazing chilled nature in normal circumstances, but as the weeks are going on he is becoming more vocal and demanding. Mac has become very needy, he has to be in the same room with us at all times and preferably within touching distance. He is continually throwing his collar at our feet in the hope of getting another walk. He has also started to whine, something he never did before! he has basically turned into a demanding toddler. Constant companionship it seems is not having a positive impact. I am sure I am not alone in this. Homeworking can be nigh impossible due to his new behaviors. No visitors to the house means his attention is concentrated solely on us.
Mac is a very sociable dog, he wants to play with every dog and person he meets, sometimes to his detriment! He is not enjoying being on lead most of the time on his daily walks, he usually has the freedom to sniff and go for a swim as we live in a rural area. But now due to changes in guidelines, during lockdown dogs should be kept on the lead at all times. They should not mix with other dogs and people should not pet dogs from outside their household. As dog owners, we should respect and abide by these guidelines. It is frustrating for us to limit their play and confusing for our furbuddies to all of a sudden not have the freedom to run about and play with the dogs they meet on their daily walks. Finding other forms of exercise due to reduced daily walks within the home can be tricky too. Reduced physical activity means its time to get creative and tire them out mentally.
- Teach a new trick or two. Youtube is a good place to look for tutorials.
- hide n seek (with a treat). Great if there is outdoor space
- empty cardboard boxes (make tunnels)
- empty toilet roll tubes (stack and hide treats)
- rotate toys
- invest in interactive toys
Interactive toys are a great way to mentally stimulate a dog. Using their brain to solve puzzles is as effective as physical exercise.
Ball launchers are effective in entertaining and providing a bit of exercise. Some dogs will chase a ball all day, but throwing a ball can be very tiring on the arms after a while.
In normal times my dog could be left alone for a couple of hours, not normally an issue. I naively spent every moment with Mac in the 1st couple of weeks of lockdown, I am now paying the price. Before lockdown, Mac was quite happy to have a little solitary play with his toys, have a snooze, have another play, and then have another snooze. His favourite toy being his snuffle mat. He could spend ages sniffing and moving it around to ensure he got every last morsel.
Mac now appears to be on high alert at all times as now there are 3 adults in the home continually, trying to work from home I may add. He appears hyper-vigilant as he thinks he could be going a walk at any given moment, or getting a treat or getting attention in general. He continually follows me about the house, even more so than normal, and looks at me with those big brown pleading eyes. Dropping a ball or other toy at my feet to let me know it’s his playtime. Playing fetch and tug with one hand while using a laptop or phone in the other is a new skill I learned in recent weeks.
Separation anxiety after lockdown
I have just this week left Mac in a room on his own for a while, just to get him used to being on his own again. As much as I do love having him around me all the time I feel I should prepare him for normality, whatever that may be! Thankfully he is beginning to settle down a bit, but he definitely does prefer to be in the same room with us at all times. Many reputable dog organisations are recommending we prepare our furbuddies. The advice is to leave our dogs on their own for 30 minutes at a time several times a day. Have routine in their day with time apart, routine exercise, and playtimes. In doing so we will help our dogs feel comfortable with normal life and ease them into the previous routine and normality when lockdown is lifted.
Music or conversation from the radio or television can be helpful to soothe an anxious dog when home alone. Playing background noise helps the dog feel less alone and it dampens outside sounds which may be stressful. For more in-depth information on causes, symptoms, and solutions on separation anxiety click on the link below.
Happy relaxed furbuddy and owner
Preparation and adhering to as normal a routine as possible will pay dividends in the long run. When lockdown is over nobody wishes our dogs to be distressed or anxious in any way. We want them to feel relaxed and secure while being home alone. Us owners also want to feel relaxed when back in our normal working environment and routine. Feeling secure at work in the knowledge our dogs are safe and happy at home for a couple of hours or so. Coming home after a hard day at work to be greeted by our happy tail-wagging loving dogs is something to look forward to.
I hope this article is helpful to you as a dog owner, feel free to leave comments or photos of your furbuddy.