- Post-Lockdown: Will Your Pet Have Separation Anxiety?
We've all seen the memes and cartoons: self-satisfied dogs saying they finally got their owner to "stay", cats asking dogs why they didn't get the memo about this whole "Covid19" thing. As much as your dog may have loved having you home with them, the transition to "normalcy" might be extra difficult.
If a dog is exhibiting destructive behavior when you leave the house (barking/howling/crying, destroying furniture, indoor accidents, etc.), your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety. You may have taken steps to help your dog's anxiety in the past, but these past several months have been difficult, even our pets. It may have caused them to relapse into old behaviors or to begin displaying symptoms they never have before.
When trying to treat your dog's separation anxiety, you may want to consult a dog behaviorist or veterinarian. But there are some practices you can put into place right away on your own. For example, when leaving the house, try giving your dog a KONG or some other sort of puzzle toy stuffed with something they find tasty, like frozen peanut butter or a treat. This approach may only work for dogs with mild anxiety, as more extreme cases likely will not settle down to eat if they see you're leaving the house. If you notice your dog's anxiety growing as you begin departure rituals (putting on makeup, putting your shoes on, picking up the car keys, etc.), maybe try doing these things but without leaving the house. This can help desensitize and counter condition them from associating your departure routine with separation. Put your shoes on to watch TV or put your makeup on to sit at the computer—hey, we did it for our Zoom calls (or at least we aspired to)!
Generally, we associate animal separation anxiety (and the need to be close in general) with dogs. As the cartoon mentioned above of the cat irritated with the dogs suggests, the joke is that dogs ENJOYED us being home for lockdown and cats DIDN'T. But the truth is cats can suffer from separation anxiety too. Signs of separation anxiety in cats are similar to those exhibited by dogs: (following you from room to room, vocalizing as you prepare to leave, peeing in inappropriate places, excessive self-grooming, vomiting, etc.). You can help your cat's anxiety by enriching their environment: give them scratching posts, make sure they have an open window to look out from, leave the radio or television on for them.
All of us—human and animal alike—are living through a global experience we never imagined we'd endure in our lifetimes. Having our pets close to us at the height of the pandemic was undoubtedly a comfort.
As you return to work, book a vacation, or make weekend plans, be sure to book The Peaks Pet Nanny for dog walking, pet sitting, and overnight care. Scheduling daily walks and extra pet sitting visits are a great way to transition your pets to the reality of their constant companion not being home 24/7.
By – K.Kypers