Covid has brought so many hardships to our lives. This seems to be a fairly universal fact at this point. We have had to navigate an unprecedented time, and so have our furry friends. Covid has resulted in so many families finally having time to be home with an animal, so they adopt one, which is exciting and amazing; what’s not amazing is the fallout that humans, dog walkers, pet sitters and trainers are all starting to see. We’re seeing loads of animals who haven’t had the chance to be socialized with others because humans aren’t able to interact with each other. We’re seeing animals who have never had to be alone since they came into their forever home having a hard time with humans going back to work because their worlds are suddenly turning upside down. This can result in some big behavior problems for the animals and humans.
Separation Anxiety is a big term with loads of baggage associated with it. True separation anxiety has some pretty dramatic side-effects. It will look like a dog who doesn’t quiet down the entire time their humans are away. It will look like a dog damaging their crates and even hurting their body to get to an escape. It will look like a cat destroying furniture and evacuating their bodies while refusing to eat or drink because they’re too stressed without their humans around. These are terrible things to come home to, and truly terrible things for our animals to have to experience.
How do we help? It is important that while you are home and immediately available to your pet, that you start giving them some alone-time training. This may mean closing the door and being in the other room only long enough for your pet to eat at first, slowly building up time. This could mean crate training with fun crate games to help your dog see that the crate is a wonderful place to be, even if they can’t see you. It also looks like teaching your pets to enjoy independent activities like chewing, playing on their own, or licking appropriate substances in appropriate locations (lick mat, Kong, etc.).
We also don’t want to immediately leave our pets for 8 hours one day when they haven’t had to be alone at all until then. Start with shorter bursts, step outside and back in, work your way to a walk around the block, go to the store for 15 minutes, take an hour to get groceries, make sure your pet can handle these steps first. If they are struggling, get a trainer in your home, and look into getting a pet sitter to check in on them during the day.
It’s important that our pets have things to occupy their time whilst we are gone. Even if your pet doesn’t have separation anxiety you want to prevent it, and even prevent something lower like separation distress, discomfort and boredom. This will protect your home as well as your pet’s mental state. Give them safe and fun activities that are appropriate for the amount of time that you are gone. Your leaving should not be a terrible thing for them.