Will your dog survive the return to normal?
We have had a couple of years of Covid 19 and there were lots and lots of pets acquired during that time. Now that things are starting to return to normal will your dog be able to cope with the new routine?
This sudden increase in pet ownership raises concerns about pet welfare. Puppies acquired during lockdown have been missing out on critical socialisation experiences and training, which is known to be associated with stress-induced behaviours rangi
It isn’t just the pandemic pets that may be showing signs of stress or behavioural issues. Life hasn’t been normal for many of our dogs for most of the past year. They’ve had less interaction with other dogs, fewer visitors coming into the home and little time alone since the pandemic.
This has led to a noticeable change in dog behaviour. Growling, snapping or nipping children when approached and handled by them increased by 57% during lockdown. Google searches for “dog bark” and “dog bite” increased by 48% and 40% respectively, suggesting some aspects of the lockdown period were particularly challenging for our pets.
As humans, we tend to focus on situational stress – work deadlines, or paying bills. But stress can be caused by anything that upsets the body’s hormone balances. The presence of a stressor results in a hormone cascade, culminating in the release of glucose that provides a burst of energy designed to help escape the stressor. This sets off the fight, flight or freeze response.
Stressors range from a physical threat, such as a predator, to an unpredictable environment, which our pets might be experiencing now lockdown restrictions ease. This isn’t limited to dogs and cats. Changes to routine, particularly feeding schedule, have been shown to induce stress in birds, sheep and horses.
Is your pet stressed?
Signs of stress in your pet may be obvious, such as destructive behaviour or vocalizing. But, there are also more subtle signs of anxiety, such as panting or drooling, pacing, repeatedly checking windows and doors, or chewing or scratching themselves.
Lockdown may, unfortunately, have a long-term impact on pets’ ability to cope when left home alone. Dogs that had separation anxiety before the restrictions started are likely to get worse when left again as owners head back to work. But we also expect to see new cases developing, because other dogs, and particularly puppies, have learnt to expect company all day.
Research last year showed 82% of dog owners surveyed noticed an increase in their dog whining or barking when a household member was busy. There was a 41% increase in reports of dogs being clingy or following people around the house during lockdown. All of these can be indicators of separation anxiety developing.
The Logical has some tips to help
The good news is, it’s not too late to prepare your dog for lockdown easing, and to teach them vital skills that they can apply in any situation.
If you’re starting to spend more time outside of the house, you need to remember that this change in routine is stressful for your pets. Start preventative measures now to avoid future problems.
If you have a dog who was previously used to being left alone, make sure you maintain their ability to cope with this by introducing periods of separation during the day when you are in the house – such as placing them behind a baby gate whilst you are working from home. Leave your dog at home for short periods of time.
Build up the amount of time your dog is separated from family members gradually and associate it with something positive, such as a long-lasting treat. A stuffed kong, or frozen bone work well.
Monitor how your dog responds, and shorten the time left if they show any signs of anxiety. Also make the leaving and returning home as ordinary as possible. Do not say goodbye to the dog or give it a big hello when you return. Treat every time that you go out the same way…you do not say goodbye to the dog if you are just putting the garbage outside. So act the same way as that when your are leaving.
Where dogs are already showing signs of separation anxiety (such as barking, howling, toileting or being destructive when left), seek help from your vet in the first instance.
Teaching dogs to be relaxed when left takes time and patience, particularly for the pandemic puppies that have rarely been away from their owners. But making the effort to show your dog that being alone is not stressful, using our advice, can prevent serious problems that are much more difficult to treat later in life.
Avoid looking for “quick fix” solutions like anti-bark collars or punishing your dog on return. These approaches will likely exacerbate the problem and result in more serious and more difficult to treat problems in the long run.
Some dogs respond very well to a tight vest that keeps constant pressure on them. so they feel like they are being hugged. These anxiety shirts are a great boon for thunderstorms and fireworks as well as separation anxiety. You can get one here /https://thelogicaldog.com/dog-anxiety-vest-xs-xl-pet-dog-anxiety-jacket-reflective-vest-for-small-medium-large-dog-clothes-shirt-pet-product/