How to Prepare Your Dog For The End of Lock Down
It seems that the end of lock down is just around the corner now, but as this is bringing us stress and uncertainty, we can at least be expecting of it. Your dog, however, has a new normal that will suddenly come to an abrupt end.
Most of us have been at home for over two months now, and as our daily routines have shifted to being at home, going for walks close to home, and being around our pets more, transitioning to life outside of quarantine could have a negative effect on our animals. If you’re going from being at home all day every day, to suddenly leaving the home and your pet alone for 10 hours a day, there are bound to be some emotional consequences.
Separation anxiety is an emotional issue that manifests as behavioural issues. Separation anxiety is one of the most commonly discussed issues with dogs. Manifestations of separation anxiety include vocalization, chewing, inappropriate urination and defecation, and other forms of destruction that occur when a dog is separated from his owner. Not all of these actions are the result of separation anxiety and for the destructive behaviour you can limit that through time-outs with this guide. Signs of true separation anxiety are things such as:
If your dog becomes anxious when you prepare to leave the house
If the destructive behaviour occurs under 45 minutes after you leave
If your dog wants to be around you constantly at home
If your dog tries to maintain physical contact at all times
Actual separation anxiety is something that needs dedicated training and is an ongoing process for quite a while as your dog needs to learn to be sure that you’re definitely coming back. This obviously means that when coming out of lockdown, you need to reassure your dog that you can leave and will always come back.
There’s a whole lot of behaviours that come from separation anxiety such as toilet accidents while their human is out of the house, barking and howling, chewing and biting and general destructive behaviours. Try to limit how many of these can happen by placing things out of reach, like tv remotes and shoes. Some people opt for leaving the TV on with low volume to distract their dogs.
Treatment for separation anxiety includes counter conditioning. This is the act of swapping out anticipation for something unpleasant with anticipation for a good experience instead. This means that you’ll have to give something pleasant to your dog only when they’re about to experience this separation. This could be a new toy or could be some benefit that they get only when they’re separated. You could also offer dog puzzles to keep them busy for a while or a kong treat filled with something delicious each time you leave the house. Instead of associating you leaving with the feeling of loneliness, they’ll associate it with getting a tasty treat or a special toy to play with.
If the separation anxiety is more severe, then it can take longer to break this behaviour and will often include desensitization. Desensitization is the act of leaving the house regularly for short time periods that will not induce separation anxiety, and then slowly over time building up the time you are gone. By gradually building up this time your dog will start to become better at dealing with being alone for longer periods.
But then how do you do this for a lock down? One day you’re stuck indoors and the next you’re at work for a full day. You can start acclimating your dog to the process of you going to work - put on your work clothes and leave for work like you usually would, but instead just stay outside or in the car for five minutes. This is also a good way for you to be able start giving the positive experiences before leaving too. Fill up a Kong or provide them with an enjoyable distraction when you leave so that their attention is not on you leaving. Keep repeating this process and gradually try to up the time that you’re outside so that they don’t get used to you only being gone for 5 minutes each time.
All in all, just understand that when work starts again, your dog is going to lose their best friend for most of the day. When you come home after a long day of work, appreciate that your dog has been home alone, probably bored all day and will now want to spend all that stored up energy. You could try doing this by taking them for a walk after you arrive home.
Make sure to have half an hour to an hour to play with them before or after work, so they still get the quality time with you that they’ll be missing.
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