When is too much of a good thing not a good thing? While many dogs and cats have benefitted by our round-the-clock presence with constant attention and non-stop belly rubs, are they prepared for our eventual return to work and offsite activities?
Dogs especially thrive on predictable routines. Your absence while at the office, church, gym or events outside of the home was their prior norm and for most of them, they managed on their own. Over the past several months, we’ve isolated at home to create a new routine wherein our only absence from them meant leaving one room for another.
For those lucky shelter dogs and cats who found forever homes during the pandemic, they were immediately introduced to an environment with little separation from their caretakers.
Puppies, especially, benefit by early socialization outside of the home, yet given recent circumstances may not have had opportunities to meet other dogs, people, places and faces other than their owners and housemates.
Separation anxiety is likely to occur as we return to more off-site liberties. Given the attachment to our constant presence, dogs may become anxious during our absence.
While most dogs will adapt to being home alone, it may be helpful to begin a gradual introduction into periodic absences now. Start by leaving the house for 30 minutes, then an hour or two and eventually a longer day away. Don’t fuss over your dog as you leave and return. Of course they are excited to see you return, with wagging tails and racing around the room as though the bell just went off. Wait for them to calm down before you embrace them.
Entertainment toys and puzzles left around the house will help keep your dog occupied while you’re gone. Stuff a Kong or two with peanut butter or treats and hide them around the house to create a treasure hunt. Close closet doors to avoid dogs seeking your scent on your shoes and socks. Even a mature dog who knows better might munch on them if anxiously missing you. If you don’t care about an old t-shirt, leave that out for a comforting sniff of you instead.
Set the TV or stereo to soft rock, reggae or classical music for comfortable background noise. According to one study, classical music was shown to reduce stress in kenneled dogs, while soft rock and reggae showed even better results.* Interestingly enough, too-frequent exposure to the same “tunes” reduced the beneficial effect over time. Therefore, mixing up the playlist will help alleviate “habituation” (decrease in responsiveness after repeated exposure).
Daily exercise is critical for all dogs of all ages. Not only will a good walk help relieve their stress, but will also keep both of you physically fit and mentally healthy.
Create a safe room for your dog while you’re gone; a “den of zen” just for them. This special place in the house should include a soft bed, crate (if crate training has been employed in advance) or a “cave” bed. These are pet beds specifically designed to provide added comfort for dogs and cats who like to huddle for added security. We especially like FurHaven pet bed products for their hideaway and burrow beds, found on our Pet Store page @ https://doolittlesdoghouse.com/shop/.
For new puppy owners, get out of the house with them! While your choices seem limited, many stores, shopping malls and patio restaurants allow dogs. You can maintain social distance while introducing your puppy to new surroundings. Find a local doggie daycare and let them play with other friendly dogs with proper supervision. Older dogs that have been socialized will also benefit by a day of play (away from you) with other canine companions. An absolute must read for new puppy owners regarding the critical need to socialize your puppy early on: https://www.thedogclinic.com/socialize-puppy. Written by Gemma Johnstone at the Dog Clinic, she covers the life events your puppy will encounter and the techniques and benefits to starting early to raise a balanced and socially-mature companion.
For hyper anxious dogs, anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed although we prefer a more holistic approach using natural calming aids, such as Dog Appeasing Pheromone sprays and diffusors, or CBD. CBD for pets, without THC, is showing tremendous results in not only calming dogs and cats but also helping with a myriad of other ailments.
If you are anxious about your dog or puppy’s separation anxiety, consult with a professional dog trainer or your Vet. We’re here to help you every step of the way! We not only advocate for cage-free boarding, but also strengthening the human-animal bond.
Let us know how you’re doing….leave a comment below! We want to hear from you.
Photo attribution: Mark Zamora @ unsplash.com
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