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Have you ever thought your pet can get post COVID isolation, Separation Anxiety?

Yes, this is true, your pet can experience psychological changes due to the return to another routine after the end of isolation. In this article, I am going to touch the mild cases of separation anxiety that our pets can face after the ease of the measures and our return to normal routine. A normal routine might mean that from spending 24 hours a day with our pets, now they would need to spend a few hours on their own again. We need to remember that animals and particularly dogs are routine animals. That means that they love doing the daily tasks in the order they know! And for sure what they ‘ve learnt recently is that they can spend the whole day being around mummy and daddy!

What to look for?

The first important fact is that you need to recognise the symptoms of anxiety. Pacing around, barking and howling, chewing things they shouldn’t, trying to escape, trembling, scratching doors or other furniture or even itself (!), digging or simply destroying things can all be due to your dog feeling anxious about leaving him behind. Abnormal urination and defecation and even coprophagia can be separation anxiety symptoms as well. However, all the above and particularly the last ones can be signs that indicate a more serious condition potentially physical rather than mental/behavioural. For that reason, it’s good to contact a vet to find out what the next steps should be.

Maybe prevent it first?

In case you are raising a pup and especially in this difficult isolation period it is good to train and teach your basic some very important things that might prevent the separation anxiety later on. Firstly, remember to teach a very important lesson to you little pup; calmness and patience. It’s better to allow you puppy to find ways to entertain itself with toys, chews etc... without having to be constantly with or around you! By doing this, you achieve your dog being quiet and comfortable even if you are not around. This will prepare both of you for the “waving goodbye” situation!

Start using a crate is another good idea. In this way, your little one will learn to respect its environment and most importantly learn that there are boundaries. It’s crucial that everybody that interacts with your puppy behaves in the same way for reasons of consistency or your little one will get different messages that will confuse it. Don’t forget, let your pet discover the crate on its own and reward it for this. It has to be done gradually otherwise it will hate it forever!

If you are not a fun of the crate, you can train your pup to stay in the bed and reward him for that. Take a baby step at the time…walk 1 meter away, treat, 2 meters away, treat, different room, big treat!

How to manage it?

First of all, let’s think about the behavioural pattern. Your dog probably associates the fact of “leaving the house” as an unpleasant feeling that creates fear and anxiety feeling, which are bad feelings. What if you try and associate the “leaving” bit or any object, act, situation with something positive. Therefore, for our current problem we would like our dog to learn that when you leave the house something great will happen. To learn this to your dog, you can try and offer to your dog every time you leave something very tasty… But we all know tasty food for dogs is …”fast” food. To overcome this, you can use dog toys like dog puzzles stuffed with food, hide treats in the house and encourage him to find them or use the famous Kong ®. You can use several treats to stuff it, including some low-fat cheese, peanut butter (only if your dog’s health condition allows it) or any pasty dog treat. Remember that because it is rubber you can always freeze it. Also, you can create chicken broth ice cubes, which will take time to consume by your dog.

You can use tricks like, using a different door to go out. Also, many dogs can sense that you are going to leave by “reading” your movements. So, they might start becoming anxious by the time you start getting dressed or prepare your bag. You can try and get dressed for example and stay home. In this way, your pet will become “immuned” and stop connecting specific actions/situations with negative feelings of fear or anxiety.

Even if your dog doesn’t feel very anxious about you being away it’s better not to make a great fuss when you are back home. Also, you can leave some recently worm clothes around your pet’s bed before you leave; they might feel less anxious “smelling” you.

Some natural supplements you can buy over the counter can help. Pheromones releasing plug-ins can be of a benefit as well. I personally prefer PET REMEDY®, which is a real stinker but works great.

Finally, if you feel after you tried that your pet’s symptoms escalate or simply are not resolved, talk to your vet who might need to refer you to a specialist behaviourist. Qualified animal behaviourists can work with you and your pet to identify the deeper causes of your pet’s anxiety and offer you a treatment plan.

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