With everyone being at home more in our current situation our pets are loving it. They are getting spoiled with our attention. As with people, keeping them on the same routine and schedule is important. In the upcoming months, once we return to our normal habits of being away from the home more, our pets may have some anxiety about this. Common signs of anxiety in dogs can include; urinating or defecating in the house, barking or howling more, chewing or digging (to the point of destruction), increase drooling, panting or pacing, decrease in appetite, change in behavior, and even trying to look for ways to escape.
There are things we can do to help avoid separation anxiety. While at home we can use counterconditioning and desensitization techniques. These things would include changing our habits just prior to leaving the house. For instance, putting on shoes and or coat without leaving the house, picking up car keys and moving them around, and gathering things that we would normally take with us when leaving and putting them by the door. These are all signs that our dogs pick up on that signal that we are preparing to leave them. Once you do leave, don’t make a dramatic departure or arrival. No good-byes or hellos when returning. When you come in the door ignore them until they have calmed down. Training them to sit at the door when you leave may help by giving them a task to do. You can also provide them with a more inviting environment to help keep them busy and comfortable. By giving them a high value treat and or toy only when you are away from the house may help keep them calm. Use a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter, squeeze cheese, or a frozen banana is a great example. There are also many toys you can hide treats in and place them around the house to make a treasure hunt for them to stay busy. Providing them with a background noise or calming music may also help. If you utilize a crate for your dog while gone, make it a comfortable place for them by giving them chew toys, treats, and soft bedding. Feed them in their crate so that they associate a positive thing with the crate. Utilize their crate while at home, giving them treats and toys so they don’t associate the crate with you being gone. Making sure they have a time set aside to release their energy is also very important. Daily walks and or throwing a ball, or visiting a dog park can provide this. Taking them to a doggy daycare once to twice a week is also an option (may be limited with our current restrictions).
If your dog is showing signs of anxiety there are products that may help. There are hormone diffusers, calming collars, and calming foods. A Thundershirt may provide comfort by giving them that snug feeling of a hug. In the more severe cases of separation anxiety there are medications that can help also. If you have concerns, you should reach out to your veterinarian for medical advise. As with anything, Broad Ripple Animal Clinic is here for you and your pet’s needs.