Let’s be honest, lockdown was hard on all of us the first time around. And now here we are again for round 2, and while we know what we’re in for this time, it’s no less difficult. But one of the areas we often forget about is the impact lockdown can have on our pets. Dogs in particular are struggling with the change in routine, and we’re seeing a generally higher level of anxiety in dogs as the months go on.
But when the lockdown ends, we predict this will get worse – just like it did with the first lockdown. As restrictions ease and people start to go back to work, your dog will have to go through yet another change in routine, and suddenly going from seeing you all day every day to not seeing you for hours at a time can take its toll. This can manifest in separation anxiety, and it’s something your dog will need help to cope with.
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is simply the name for anxiety provoked by the separation (or threat of separation) from a caregiver. It’s often used when talking about children, particularly when they first go to nursery or school, but it can be applicable to other things as well. For example, dogs can experience separation anxiety when they don’t know how to deal with being at home alone. Being alone almost puts them into a state of panic, and their mind goes into a spin. In a normal day a dog needs around 14-16 hours of sleep, a lot of which they will get while the house is nice and quiet. So while they would be upset when you first leave, they would eventually settle down. But a dog with separation anxiety can’t do that. Their minds stay in that state of complete panic, unable to settle down, and they get more worked up with the passage of time.
Now, your dog may not have originally had separation anxiety before all this began. But we’re going through a long period of constant change, and it’s enough to give humans (who can understand the reasons) anxiety, let alone dogs who have no idea what’s going on. So a normally calm happy dog might start to get anxious if it’s suddenly left alone again post-lockdown. When this happens, you will probably see a few common symptoms, including:
- Unpredictable behaviour
- Becoming upset, angry or fearful in situations that don’t warrant it
- Peeing all over the place
- Chewing or shredding your belongings
- Scratching the door
- Hyperactive behaviour
How Can You Help Your Dog?
If your dog showed signs of separation anxiety after the last lockdown, or if you are concerned that they may struggle this time around, then there are some things you can do to help. The main thing is to try and make the transition gradual, rather than just jumping into going to work for 8 hours a day on day 1. Start out by stepping out of the house for just a little bit. A few minutes at a time to start with, and then slowly increase the time. This will start getting them used to you being out of the home, and understand that they will be alone. Next, start stepping out for a while at the time you would normally leave the house for work, so that they can get used to the timing. Start to bring in some of those related habits for when we go out, like getting dressed, taking a bag etc.
If you can do these things every day, and slowly increase the time, you are showing your dog that you will come back, and slowly getting them used to being on their own. With a nervous dog this may take more time. But with lockdown, we have nothing but time! It’s worth starting this process now, so that you won’t have the struggle and the destructive behaviour later down the line.
Canine Bowen for Anxiety
If you’re looking for some support in helping your dog adjust, you can always try canine Bowen therapy. Once lockdown is lifted, canine Bowen practitioners will be able to offer sessions again, and this can be incredibly beneficial for regulating emotional issues like generalised and separation anxiety. Because it’s a gentle, hands-on therapy, it helps relax the dog and promote a sense of calm. It also helps release a lot of the anxiety and stress that a dog will hold in its body, promoting natural healing. I’ve been helping dogs with separation anxiety for years now, and I’ve seen some amazing results!
At Fuhr Bowen, lockdown is a struggle, as it is with all of you. But we are determined to help support you and your dogs through lockdown, and part of that is making the transition back to normal life as easy as possible. A lot of animals are struggling with the constant changes to their environment, but with a little help from you, they can adjust smoothly and stay happy and healthy. If you would like to find out more, just get in touch with us today.