The Human-Animal Bond has never been stronger!
For those of us who enjoy canine and feline companionship, there is no greater joy than their presence in our lives. The human-animal bond is unlike other relationships that come and go as it is rooted in mutual respect and adoration. We’re just happier having them around!
This important role that pets play in our happiness has been deeply reinforced during Covid-19. With round-the-clock togetherness, our pets have benefited the most…unless you follow cat memes on the internet suggesting the cat is not as happy with your 24/7 presence. We know that’s not true, it’s simply meant to spark a laugh.
All kidding aside, as the green shoots of recovery sprout and we return to work, travel and off-site social engagements, our companion animals may experience separation anxiety or distress…especially for those who were recently adopted or fostered.
Pets, just like human children, need consistency in their routines. When routines are disrupted, dogs and cats become stressed.
To prepare for “distancing” from us, 8 signs to watch for and recommendations for remedies below:
(1). Over-grooming: dogs may obsessively lick their paws and cats may pluck their tummy fur. This can cause skin irritation and possibly infection. Consult with your vet first to make sure this isn’t an underlying medical condition. Seasonal allergies notwithstanding, keep an eye on this as a potential stress reaction that requires your attention.
(2). Excessive vocalization: if your dog is barking or whining more than usual, this is another sign of stress.
(3). Yawning & panting: excessive panting is a sure sign of stress (unless you just came back from a long walk or the hot outdoors). Yawning is hard to interpret. Is your dog just tired or not? Referred to as “displacement behavior”, animal behaviorists attribute this to discomfort.
(4). Pacing and shaking: if your dog is shaking and trembling this is not normal and requires your immediate attention to determine the cause and remove him from it or seek vet attention. He could be in pain or simply preparing to flee from a bothersome situation.
Shaking often occurs during thunderstorms or loud noises such as fireworks. Unusual pacing is just that; unusual and certainly a sign of discomfort or distress. If your dog is not in pain requiring a vet visit, calming aids can be employed. You may consider CBD or other organic supplements. Visit our Pet Store for 3 highly recommended, USA-based pet CBD companies, along with Pet Wellbeing for “Stress Gold” (liquid drops) in our Pet Wellness section @ www.doolittlesdoghouse.com/shop/
(5). Hiding: if your dog or cat is suddenly ducking under a bed or behind the chair, they’re bothered by something. Consider a cat tree (if you don’t have one already) as cats are more comfortable in higher places.
For the “disappearing” dog, consider the triggers that are sending him for cover and remove them. This happens when you prepare to leave the home and your dog knows what those signals mean. You might stuff a Kong toy with treats and provide them for your dog’s entertainment while you are away. A Kong can be stuffed with peanut butter or Cheese Whiz and frozen for longer-lasting enjoyment.
(6). Sudden indoor accidents: if your litterbox-trained cat starts missing the mark, she could be stressed by something. You may add another litterbox as you identify the source of her stress (is it a loud noise or a new cat member sharing the same litterbox)? Rule of thumb is one litterbox per cat and a spare for good measure.
If your housetrained dog is now leaving “gifts” inside the house, he is definitely sending an “I’m not happy” message. He might benefit by an indoor grass or bark potty box, yet may also benefit by desensitization techniques or calming aids to assuage his anxiety.
(7). Tail tucking, flattened ears or crouching: when they are scared or stressed, they tuck their tails in. This reaction is most likely a response to fear and should be met with lots of space, patience and caution. Cats will flatten their ears and curl into a ball with a flicking tail as a warning sign.
(8). Loss of appetite: this happens for a myriad of reasons; stress is one, yet more likely a medical condition that needs a vet’s attention if the hunger strike continues for several days. It’s possible your companion simply needs a change of diet. Dogs eat less in the summer months, so don’t panic if rising temperatures prompt slightly-reduced consumption.
In order to prepare properly your pets for alone time, some simple techniques to consider:
• Create a safe, comfortable and quiet area in the home just for them.
• Provide entertainment and enrichment toys. Stuffed Kongs (can’t say enough about these!) and treat puzzles are a great distraction for home alone dogs. Hide them throughout the house to create a treasure hunt.
• Invest in a Furbo or Pet Cube Camera. Both products allow you to keep a remote eye on your wandering dog or cat while you are gone and talk to them, dispense treats, or play laser tag. For more information or to buy, visit our Toys & Accessories aisle on our Pet Store page @ www.doolittlesdoghouse.com/shop/
• Leave the TV or radio on, with soft music in the background (classical is best). Remember that your dog’s hearing is far more acute than yours, so turn the volume down to a peaceful level.
• Start conditioning your dog with treats and praise when they are acting calm. To begin desensitizing your dog to your absence, leave the house for short periods. When you return, wait for their so-excited-to-see-you-again reaction to quell before you fuss and fawn over them. Walk past them, turn your back and as soon as they settle down, reward their chill behavior with treats and praise.
• Leave an old t-shirt or other personal item lying around for your dog to sniff and remember you while you are temporarily away.
• Always provide daily exercise for your dog. If it’s too hot for a walk, play a short game of fetch before you leave for the day. You’ve heard it said countless times: “a tired dog is a happy dog”.
• Leave a blind or shutter open so your dog has a view of outdoor activity in the neighborhood.
• Consider a doggie daycare program. If not a local pet resort, enlist your dog-owning friends or neighbors to arrange playdates together. Join Nextdoor.com to expand your neighborhood search to find other dog-friendly cohorts.
• Hire a dog walker to provide daily relief from in-door boredom and an opportunity for your dog to stretch, sniff and mentally process all those yummy outdoor smells!
Thank you for your devotion to your pets and your dedication to Doolittle’s Doghouse.
photo attribution: Tatiana Rodriguez on unsplash.com