Photo credit: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain
Many people are living in the pandemic time. In other words, before COVID and after COVID. And the post-pandemic world is changing fast as more and more people are being vaccinated. Students go back to school, parents go back to work – and pandemic puppies are feeling the loss. For anyone who has welcomed a canine companion home while staying, here are some pointers (pun intended) to help reduce the dog’s distress.
Deconditioning Leaving Behavior
Before returning to work or school, decondition your dog by practicing your typical leaving behavior. Get dressed to go out, grab your keys, and leave home “at the time you would normally go to work,” advises the American Kennel Club (AKC).
You can put your shoes on several times a day – and then go nowhere. Grab your keys and ring them or put them in your pocket. You can also treat your dog after the dog has calmed down after an exit behavior. For example, grab your keys. If your nervous dog gasps when he hears the buttons, don’t reward him with a treat until he stops gasping and lies down relaxed.
When life changes, slowly change it. Fortunately, CU Denver’s aptly titled “Soft Return” phase should help you lead your dogs to more independent lives. Employees began their soft return in the first week of June, with many Lynx employees returning to work in person one or two days a week. In July, the staff is increased to 2 to 3 days a week for personal work. The idea, as the Lynx Together Task Force put it, is to “allow employees to transition slowly into new routines”.
Unsurprisingly, a slow transition is good for dogs too. The AKC suggests, “Relax back into your routine.” For dogs who have never been alone – those who came home during the pandemic to people who stayed home most of the time – the slow transition may have to be a lot slower. The VCA Hospital website offers this advice: “Start with just a moment or two, and then gradually work your way towards longer and longer breakups.” For example, try increasing the interval in 3-minute intervals. Day 1: Family leaves dog alone for three minutes. Day 2: Family leaves dog alone for six minutes. And so on.
A tired dog is a good dog
Veterinarians also recommend giving your dog plenty of exercise before leaving the house. The amount of exercise varies depending on the age and physical condition of the dog. A 20-minute walk or a 15-minute gaming session is a good place to start. “This exercise will help your dog burn off excess energy and help him stay relaxed and calm throughout the day,” states the AKC website.
For puppies, younger dogs, and energetic canines, be sure to visit a neighbor, friend, or professional dog handler during the day who will come by while you are away to give your dog extra exercise. Some students and workers may return home during lunch or break to allow the dog another walk or play time. During the summer, some dog owners may hire responsible older, non-school children for dog walks for a reasonable fee.
People can also give their dogs something to do while they are away. A recent article in The Guardian states, “Too many dogs will languish alone all day with nothing to do.” There are plenty of interactive toys such as food puzzles and treat dispensers that you can leave your dog when you are not around. Make sure you spin the interactive toys so the dogs don’t get bored!
There are also free and inexpensive ways to provide dog fun. A University Communications dog lover collects stray tennis balls from a nearby court, cuts them, fills them with yogurt / peanut butter and shredded treats, and freezes them. Before going to work, he gives each dog one of the frozen tennis balls. Hide and Seek is another inexpensive game. Just hide goodies in hard-to-reach places before you leave home (under the couch, in a shoe, in a slightly opened drawer).
For the really fearful
Dogs with extreme separation anxiety can pant, drool, pace up and down, or destroy things. If you want to know how anxious your dog really is when you go, you can use a video baby monitor or security camera to see how your dog is doing while you are away. If the dog is very stressed out in your absence, you can try soothing pheromone sprays, CBD oil, or weighted coats like Thundershirt.
Some dogs may need medication to manage their separation anxiety. If they are under high stress, contact your veterinarian. Some dogs may benefit from anti-anxiety and / or antidepressant medications when times are tough!
Stressed Out Pets: How to Keep Your Dogs Relaxed When You Leave Them Alone Provided by the University of Colorado Denver
Quote: How To Help Your Pandemic Puppy Avoid Dog Stress (2021, June 8), accessed June 8, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-06-pandemic-puppy-doggy-distress.html
This document is subject to copyright. Except for fair trade for private study or research purposes, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.