Preventing Anxiety In Dogs Post Pandemic
As we navigate through this unprecedented time, it’s important that we consider the effects our current changes in lifestyle may have on our canine companions. This is especially true of puppies, who are growing up in a world that will be very different six months from now. Today I’d like to focus on one topic in particular, anxiety. The most commonly discussed form of anxiety as a result of being left alone in dogs is separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is defined as distress that occurs when a dog is separated from their handler, and it must be handler specific. This is not the only form of anxiety that can occur when a dog is left alone. There is also isolation anxiety (meaning any company will do, as long as they are not alone), and also confinement anxiety which is stress that is a result of being confined in a space. Given that many of us are home full time right now, the shift back to a normal schedule in the coming months will likely come as quite a shock to many dogs, especially puppies who have never known anything different. It’s important that we take steps now to prepare our dogs for this shift. One of the benefits of us being home full time currently is that you have the ability to break down your training into small pieces without having to rush into leaving them alone for extended periods of time before they are ready. As a professional trainer I really appreciate this unique opportunity at hand, this is an absolutely ideal set up for crate training/alone time training!
What to do?
If your adult dog was already acclimated to being left alone for periods of time before the pandemic, you don’t have much homework to do. Just carve out portions of time throughout the day for your dog to relax in their own space away from you. As I’m typing this, my dogs are all relaxing in their crates in another room. At least once a day for about an hour, I have my dogs in a separate area of the house away from me. This helps to create some semblance of normalcy for them and mimics their typical routine.
As my students will tell you, I love pairing alone time with awesome stuff like a stuffed classic kong or westpaw topl. I also frequently ask my dogs to go into their crate for a quick snack/treat, and let them out again right away. This ensures the crate does not become synonymous with being alone or being in there for extended periods every time they go in. This is especially important for dogs or puppies just learning to love their crate, entering the crate should not always mean they will be in there for a long time, or that they will be left alone.
If your dog is new to crate training/alone time training, here are some tips to get started….
*Whether your dog or puppy is on the other side of a gate, or in their crate, stay nearby at first and pair the experience with lots of yummy stuff. Sit next to the crate/gate and read a book.
*Work up to going out of sight for small amounts of time, start by just stepping out of sight for a few seconds. Be sure to return and sit back down again for a bit before removing the gate or opening the crate. Your return to the area should not always predict them coming out of the crate.
*Try feeding meals in the crate.
*Play relaxing music.
*If your dog or puppy is showing signs of stress, back up a step and do less time/distance etc.
*Do not try the “cry it out” method. This is extremely detrimental especially for developing puppy brains as they are being flooded with stress hormones.
*If you’re feeling stuck in your training and/or if your dog is already showing signs of distress when left alone, please reach out to me directly for help.
Taking just a few minutes a day to work on these exercises will go a long way to preparing your dog or puppy for being on their own once you return to your normal routine. If you have any questions at all, I’m available to help! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time!
Wags and Woofs,
Seren Maxwell – Owner & Trainer
“Training is everything, and everything is training.”