When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic it is clear that the way of life has changed for many people and countries around the world, however, one that may not be at the forefront of our minds is the preparation that will be needed for the generation of dogs that will have separation anxiety. There was an increase in the number of puppies bought and adopted during the UK’s lockdown due to owners having more unexpected free time on their hands. As the lockdown begins to ease, the owners of these new family members are beginning to go back to work, and with that comes the worries of the effects of leaving their dogs home alone for the first time in their lives. The impact of your dog’s familiarity with having you around all day during lockdown is not completely known, however, some puppies or rescues may not ever have been left alone before.
A lot of people who may have put off getting a puppy due to the time it would take to train them saw the lockdown as the perfect time to buy one. However, this generation of puppies will have had little to no experience of being left home alone, having contact with strangers or even being around other dogs during their first four months of their lives. This is why there is an expected increase in dogs that will suffer from separation anxiety. Although some owners will be fortunate enough to take their dog to work with them, most owners will not be able to do this. It is thought that it is best to slowly introduce dogs to situations of separation over the time period of two months.
Separation anxiety within dogs can manifest itself much like panic does in humans. It will be the fear of being left alone, but this anxiety will manifest differently with each individual dog. Some signs of separation anxiety in dogs can be revealed by them continuously following you around the house or sleeping with one eye open to see if you are leaving, other signs could include excessive barking, urination, defecation, salivation, pacing when they have been left, howling, and other destructive behaviours.
It is believed one way of dealing with separation anxiety is to set out several sessions lasting for about five to ten minutes a day to train your puppy in preparation for life post-lockdown. This can be done by preparing a bed for them and giving them a chew toy, start by taking a single step back and then reward them with a treat, continue this while increasing the distance. Then move on to closing and reopening the door, gradually leaving the door closed for longer periods before re-entering, and then move on to increasing the time you leave the house. You can also get them used to the sound of the doorbell and treat them when they react in a calm manner.
This type of training could take only a few days with dogs that had no trace of separation anxiety prior to lockdown, however, it could take months in other cases. If you believe that your dog may be showing signs of separation anxiety, get in touch with a dog trainer, behaviourist or even your vet for any advice or tips.