Preventing Puppy Dog Separation Anxiety During the Coronavirus Quarantine-Part 1
This is such a stressful time for all of us, and our dogs are a source of comfort, most likely discipline has been relaxed, and our old routines have gone out the window. We’re thinking about staying safe today and worrying about tomorrow.
We’re home more than we have ever been, but I’m wondering how it’s going to be when things get back to our new normal – both for us and for our dogs. I want our dogs to be behaviorally healthy later when life has gotten back to normal.
My biggest fear is that many dogs in this country and around the world are going to suffer from Separation Anxiety when this is all over. This series of articles is on Preventing Puppy Dog Separation Anxiety during the Coronavirus Quarantine.
On the one hand, our dogs are glad that we are home, but on the other, they know that we are stressed, and they pick up on our emotions … and become stressed, too.
I’ve read so many articles on dogs and quarantine from well-meaning authors who are interested in comforting us during this time. Many of them say to spend a lot of time with our dogs, cuddling them as much as necessary for our benefit as well as for theirs. While that may be good for us in the short run, it’s likely not going to be great for our dogs in the long run. Why? Read on.
A New Routine for Our Puppy Dogs
Our dogs will have gotten used to a routine of our being around all the time, and then they’ll have to go back to the old one when we go back to work and leave them alone. For us, we knew this is coming and are ready to go back to our old schedules. But for our dogs, who have weathered the storm with us, all they know is that we are gone and they are alone – and if they are new puppies or newly adopted, they’ve never been alone for any extended period of time. It can be very scary.
Unfortunately, if our dogs have any behavior issues now, they are likely to increase later. Now is the time to prevent our dogs from being Velcro dogs and having Separation Anxiety later.
Dogs thrive on routine and anxieties can develop when that routine goes out the window. The thing is, our routines have drastically changed – if we even have any routines at all. We don’t have to get up at 6am to get ready to go to work; we can even stay in bed and get our work done. Some of us only have to get “the upper half” dressed because we are in Zoom meetings, and who cares if we’re wearing pajama bottoms. We can eat whenever we want. We can come and go as we please – if we go out at all.
What is Puppy Dog Separation Anxiety?
Separation Anxiety for our dogs is a panic attack – intense fear that overwhelms them. I consider myself a fairly emotionally stable person, but I’ve had two panic attacks during my life, and they are beyond frightening. I couldn’t breathe, was trembling, my feet and hands became paralyzed, and I thought that I was having a heart attack or stroke.
Something similar happens to your dog. He doesn’t have control over his fear because he can’t cope and is TERRIFIED of being alone. He gets himself so worked up emotionally that there are physical manifestations and he will do ANYTHING to get us back.
Separation Anxiety is the most difficult behavior issue I work with because we are working on fixing a behavior that takes place when we are not home – which is why we need to work on our behavior when we are at home.
Signs of Puppy Dog Separation Anxiety
How does he try to get you back?
- He’ll start to bark uncontrollably or while he is alone, hoping that you will hear him and come back.
- He’ll destroy your furniture because it smells like you and he thinks you may be hiding inside your couch.
- He’ll chew your house itself, drywalls and baseboards but especially at exit doors and windows – and jump through them – because he knows that’s the way to get outside to find you.
- He will pee and poop all over your house hoping that his smell will help you find your way home.
- He’ll chew on his body parts, especially his paws, because he has to find relief for that pent-up nervousness.
- He’ll tremble and drool when he senses you are about to leave.
It’s tragic to witness. We feel guilty and want to help. We think we should be spending more time with him when we are home, but it’s not working. We’ve read articles and books. But things are not really getting better. In fact, things are getting worse.
Please Start Now
Because our dogs are used to our constant companionship now, they become dependent on us for attention and games and are not learning become confident alone and how to entertain themselves – which are skills they need to learn now for their behavioral health later.
Getting them behaviorally healthy doesn’t start the day before we go back to work. It starts now, and it starts with us. Prevention is the key, and we hold that key so they can feel secure and stable in our absence. We will be working on setting ourselves up as leaders, increasing our dogs’ frustration tolerance, decreasing the contrast between the constant companionship when we are home and when we are gone.
Take Care of Yourself
Don’t watch every single program, press conference, news report on the coronavirus or quarantine. I’m watching a LOT of nature shows on PBS – and a lot of cooking shows and, unfortunately, gaining weight…
Please forgive me
The articles in this series Preventing Puppy Dog Separation Anxiety During the Coronavirus Quarantine are not as lighthearted as my other books and articles because I want to get this information out as soon as possible. It’s difficult to be entertaining during our present circumstances.
During this series of articles, I refer to puppies and dogs as “he” and people as “she” for simplicity.
Wishing that you stay healthy, stay safe – and stay home.
Please click Part 2 – for the Prep Stuff you may not have thought of.
If you need help with puppy or dog training, we are now doing virtual online consultations which are very effective to help in puppy dog separation anxiety. Please contact us by calling or texting (310) 804-2392 or sending an email to caryl@DoggieManners.com. We would love to work with you!
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Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog trainer, dog behavior consultant, or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.