For those of us who enjoy canine and feline companionship there is no greater joy and comfort than their presence in our lives. The human-animal bond is a special one unlike other relationships that come and go, it is permanent and rooted in mutual respect and adoration. We’re just happier having them around!
This important role that pets play in our happiness quotient 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. In order to prepare them for upcoming “distancing” from us, typical signs to watch for and recommendations follow:
(1). Over-grooming: dogs may obsessively lick their paws and cats may pluck fur from their tummies. 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 and behavioral redirection.
(2). Excessive vocalization: if your dog is barking or whining more than usual, this is another sign of stress. It’s important to pay attention to the ‘why’ and not punish or negatively overreact.
(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, blanket 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 I’m-about-to-leave 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 1 litterbox per cat and a spare for good measure.
If your housetrained dog is now leaving “gifts” for you 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 benefit by desensitization techniques or calming aids to assuage his anxiety.
(7). Tail tucking, flattened ears or crouching: you’ve seen this in dogs before; 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 do not 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 (which is our natural reaction when greeted by our overly excited friends). 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!
Our recommended entertainment products can be found below, on Amazon and available through our Associates links. While you pay the same price, if you buy through our links we receive a small commission; with much appreciation.
Thank you for your devotion to your pets and your dedication to Doolittle’s Doghouse.
♥ SNiffiz Snuffle Mat for Dogs: we’ve searched high and low for the best Snuffle Mat for a dog’s mental stimulation and boredom busting qualities (this one has 5 different brain teasing activities); quick shipping time and 4 star+ reviews with great customer service support. Well worth the $45 spend on Amazon @ https://amzn.to/2SzwR0A
♥ Nina Ottosson Dog Twister Puzzle Toy: sold by Outward Hound with a 70% 4-5 star customer review. 9 compartments and 9 locking switches for boredom relief and brain teasing activity for only $15: https://amzn.to/3c6nBsK
♥ Kong Classic Dog Toy: a must-have for every dog owner! This small dog 2-pack is a great buy for only $15.99 on Amazon. Don’t take our word for it; read over 220 reviews of 4.5 stars + on line @ https://amzn.to/3deT8J8
♥ Go Pet Club Cat Tree: a fun “condo” retreat for every cat in the family! Stylish with a faux fur finish, this playground is a must for kitty’s enjoyment and quiet time escape. 62” of luxury for only $69.99 (on sale now) with fast shipping options and great client reviews: https://amzn.to/2SCBA1B
♥ Litter Maid: Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box. Who knew? With an auto scoop rake that removes cat waste for up to 7 days of litter-free “duty”. $80 on Amazon, in stock and worth the reduced effort for cat owners all over! https://amzn.to/2Wv1oxJ
As always, have fun with your furry friends and call us to let us know how you and your pets are doing. We’d love to hear from you! 480-907-6400 or leave a comment on this blog.
photo attribution: Tatiana Rodriguez on unsplash.com