6 ways to prevent post-lockdown separation anxiety

Tuesday 23rd February 2021

Those of us fortunate enough to have had dogs at home during lockdown will have reaped the benefits of all the extra time spent with our canine companions.  But how will the easing of restrictions affect our pets?  Here are some tips on how to get ahead of post-lockdown separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is the most common specific anxiety that affects dogs. Many dogs love being with their owners so much that they cannot cope when they are left alone.

Dogs with separation anxiety can get so distressed that they can destroy furniture, bark or howl or mess in the house when their owners are out. It is especially preventable in young dogs by teaching them it’s ok to be left alone from a young age. However, this may not have been possible this year, and older dogs may have forgotten what it is like to be left alone.

Here are our tips on how to help your dog enjoy his or her alone time!

1. Quality time.

Ensure you continue spending adequate quality time with your dog. This means setting aside special time for grooming and playing games.  However, when at home together, don’t focus all of your attention on the dog all the time, as this increases his or her dependence.

2. Short trips out.

It may help to leave your dog for very short periods to start with. Ensure that you do not make a grand exit or entrance.  In fact, try to ‘ignore’ your pet immediately before your departure and resist the temptation to make a fuss of them on your return. Leaving your dog in a safe area for a short time every day teaches him or her to accept that these times are just a normal part of life and that you'll soon be back together again.

3. A safe space at home.

Make sure the environment he or she is left in is suitable, with safe or stimulating toys like a stuffed feeding toy, and a comfortable bed in an appropriate section of your home. Some dogs like to observe the outdoors through a window so may prefer access to a front facing room, while others may become nervous or overexcited at passers-by. Some may feel more settled if a radio is left on low for some quiet background noise.

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4. Bond with others.

Helping your dog to become less dependent or fixated on one person (if he or she has a favourite family member for example) may be beneficial. If there is someone else who can be responsible for feeding, walks and grooming duties occasionally, this can strengthen bonds and increase your dog’s confidence in other humans, lessening their reliance on you.

5. Keep calm and carry on.                                                                                   

Your demeanour can impact on your dog’s behaviour, so try to keep calm, especially during times of transition (at mealtimes, when you have visitors, when preparing to go out, on your return etc). If things don’t go well at first, don’t force things and revert to what your dog is used to for a few days before trying again.  Never punish your dog for anxious behaviour, in fact extra attention can sometime feel rewarding for a dog! And remember to give lots of positive rewards when things go well.


6. Other measures.

Are you concerned your dog is more nervous than most? Certain behaviours such as, hiding, vocalising more than usual, a reluctance to indulge in normal activities could all indicate your dog is suffering from deeper anxiety and may require other measures.  We have created more helpful tips on how to help if your dog’s nervous behaviour goes beyond separation anxiety.


Did you know that there are many ways in which your dog’s diet can affect his or her mental health and wellbeing?


Note

It is extremely important to report sudden or unexplained changes in your dog or cat’s behaviour to your vet as pain, neurological problems and some hormonal conditions such as hypothyroidism can manifest in aggression and other atypical behaviours.

Once medical causes have been ruled out, it is recommended you seek the assistance of a behaviourist. Your vet should be able to recommend a qualified behaviourist in your local area.

Do you have a more specific enquiry regarding your dog’s health and wellbeing? Ask our Nutrition Adviser and Registered Vet Nurse, Ness Bird CertCFVHNut ©


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