The Star-Herald

Separation anxiety after COVID

With the increase in dog adoptions during COVID-19, it’s important to keep in mind life after quarantine with your new furry friend. Reading up on dog separation anxiety tips once you are no longer trapped inside is the first step toward preventing a mutt meltdown.

Whether that means leaving your pup at home alone for a quick trip to the grocery store or for a long day at work, your new family member may not be as happy as you are when quarantine is over. Their new “normal,” after all, involves spending all hours of the day with you.

So what should you do to help your dog cope with your absence? Here are a few dog separation anxiety tips to work on now to help prevent behavior problems later.  

Have realistic expectations. Curbing your dog’s behavior due to separation anxiety isn’t going to happen overnight. It helps to know the symptoms of separation anxiety. Here are some signs of separation anxiety you might encounter with your dog if they are not used to being left alone for a long length of time:  Urinating and/or defecating in the home, excessive barking, drooling and salivation or destroying household items!  Dog owners should not punish their pets for anxious behaviors.  With practice, prevention, and patience, you can help your dog survive post-quarantine alone time.

Creating a safe place with crate training.  If you live in a small apartment, for example, and don’t have the space to put your dog in another room for their first time alone, a dog crate is an effective alternative.  Many anxious dogs find safety and security in their crates. Try to confine your dog in their crate for a short amount of time while you are still stuck at home during quarantine. Give them a chew toy or puzzle toy with some ultra-tasty peanut butter or freeze-dried dog treats to keep them occupied.  Practicing crate time will help eliminate the kennel being associated with you leaving the house.

Ignore them.  You read that right. Giving your pup a little bit of the cold shoulder is probably easier said than done, but it will be worth it! Not paying attention to your dog when they follow you around the house can help eliminate attention-seeking behavior and thus prevent separation anxiety. Over time this will help your dog get used to being alone, as long as you don’t make a big deal of leaving when the time comes. Your dog is smart. They pick up on your departure cues like jingling car keys or even putting on your shoes before you leave.

Instead of making them respond in an anxious manner to these cues, give them a favorite treat so they associate you getting ready to leave with a yummy reward. This turns the event of you leaving into something positive rather than stress-inducing. More helpful tip can be found by Britni Schlitt at www.outwardhound.com. 

Stop by the Central Aroostook Humane Society or check us out on Facebook for pets available for adoption.  Please be  responsible — spay and neuter your pets.

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the board for the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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