Separation anxiety is one of the most difficult behavioral disorders to overcome for dogs and their families. Canine sufferers not only reject being away from their humans but experience panic attacks when left alone.. During an episode, they can bark or howl nonstop, destroy household furniture, have accidents, and exhibit a variety of other stress-induced behaviors.
According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, Between 20% and 40% of dogs reviewed by animal behavior experts in North America are diagnosed with separation anxiety. The American Kennel Club has reported that approximately 14% can suffer from this disorder. Some are genetically predisposed to the problem, but separation anxiety can also be triggered later, often due to a traumatic event such as ending up in a shelter or a sudden and drastic change in your routine.
Confinement has produced significant changes in routines that can cause stress in dogs.
In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people are accompanied by their pets at home throughout the day, and the latter are sensitive to it. “Dogs thrive on consistency and predictability, like all of us, so every time there is an abrupt change, it can cause stress“said Karen Sueda, a behavioral veterinarian at VCA West Animal Hospital in Los Angeles.
Confinement has caused millions of people with pets to stay home, but When the new normal arrives and people return to work, these animals will return to spend long days alone. Some will get used to it calmly but others, especially those who have suffered anxiety in the past will experience stress, fear or even panic.
I have spoken with several experts on the subject to understand how owners can prepare their canine companions for the end of the coronavirus quarantine. Veterinary Sueda has provided a clinical perspective on separation anxiety, and Malena DeMartini-Price, specialist in separation anxiety in animals and author of Treatment of separation anxiety in dogs, has shared his opinion after more than 2 decades of experience. I have also spoken with Coach Jennifer Pratt, owner of Wag the Dog and Company in Wisconsin, USA, and I have included observations of my own work over the past 4 years as a certified separation anxiety coach.
It is important to establish a routine for your dog so that he is prepared when you have to return to work
There are things you can do to groom your dog before going back to routine. According to Pratt, one of the most important things owners can do now is establish a routine that closely resembles the one they had before confinement began.
“Allow your pet to have a little time alone.“Sueda has said.”You have your space and they have theirs“
Sometimes it is advisable to leave him home alone, especially if he has not had anxiety problems before. “I usually tell people to go out 3 times a week and try to do things like go to the mailbox [mientras dejan a su mascota dentro]“DeMartini-Price has said. Take advantage of the time away from home to do essential shopping, take a walk or sit outside with a book for an hour.
If you have experienced anxiety or panic other times when you were left alone, going out 3 times a week is probably too stressful for him. In that case, it is important to determine when the state of panic begins in your pet once you are gone.
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Does he bark or have an accident right after you’ve left home? Are you relatively relaxed for several minutes before showing signs of anxiety? Using a security camera or webcam to observe your behavior can help you know how you feel. every time you leave home.
You can help improve your dog’s response if he shows anxiety when you leave him at home
The good news is that this is a good time to work on your pet’s response if it shows signs of panic when left alone. “It is a gradual process that begins with small absences that teach the dog that they are safe.“said DeMartini-Price.
However, the method should not be reserved only for those most likely to panic when left alone. DeMartini-Price has opined that those who have never shown separation anxiety in the past may be at greater risk.
Although you are going to be given a certain space during the day, you should not forget about affection the times you are together. “Give them love, give them attention and do not think that they have to ask you for everything with a snet. None of that has to do with your dog suffering from separation anxiety“Pratt has said.”In fact, I’ve seen dogs that get worse when their owners don’t pay attention to them. That is rare for them and causes stress“
Use training, strengthening activities and relaxing tools for your dog to be successful
Other forms of in-home training could help ease the transition from impending change. Sueda has recommended reinforcing calm behaviors using a signal. This is the perfect time to work this type of slow training.
“Creating an environment where the dog loves interactive games and enjoys playing the ‘find the hidden goodies around the house’ game can be really effective because when we get back to work they will have something to do.“said DeMartini-Price.
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Before going back to work or school, Sueda recommends gradually increasing the amount of time you are away, instead of spending 0-10 hours a day. You can gradually increase the time away from home for one or 2 weeks. During that time, watch your partner’s reaction to your absence with a camera.
Sueda has said that dog calming pheromone (DAP), white noise, and nutraceuticals like Zylkene or Anxiatane may also help reduce anxiety. But don’t wait until the week you get back to routine.
You should be prepared to seek help if your dog shows signs of anxiety.
Establishing and maintaining a network of people who can help will also facilitate that transition. “I really feel like now is the time to hire a dog walker“DeMartini-Price has said. He also said that he believes it is crucial to establish new connections in the neighborhood so that someone who is available can take care of you if you start to experience distress when you return to work.
“I suspect there will be some who will only have a small adjustment period. That will probably be quite normal.“DeMartini-Price has said. If your pet continues to experience anxiety after the transition, talk to a certified veterinarian or trainer who specializes in the problem.
If he reacts negatively to your absence, don’t blame yourself for it. “Whenever I have the chance, I try to remind people that it is not their fault, and that this particular situation, with COVID-19, is chaotic for the world.“said DeMertini-Price.
This article was published in Business Insider Spain by Laura Priego.