Separation distress and lockdown

I discussed separation distress in my last article.  Given our changes in home circumstances during the Covid-19 pandemic, I thought a little more about what we can do for our dogs is warranted.

Changes in dogs home environments can produce unforeseen problems. Unfortunately, separation distress is, likely, to affect many of our dogs when things return to some level of normalcy.

Our dogs will go from having their human companions around them 24/7 too, back to being alone during the day when people return to normal work practices. Of course, some dogs may take this in their stride, many will probably not. So, what can we do to help prepare our dogs for being alone for periods they have become unused to?

I have talked in previous articles about giving dogs their own space during these difficult (Pandemic induced) times. We can take the principle of giving our dogs space a little further. We should, proactively, encourage them to be apart from us during the day. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Spend short periods in different rooms apart from your dog, with them being separated by a door
    (initially, make these periods just a few minutes. Increase the time as your dog becomes more relaxed with being apart)
  • Go outside and leave your dog indoors. Again do this for just a few minutes initially, increasing the time as your dog gets used to this.
  • Leaving a radio with a speech program on is helpful.
  • Leaving your dog with some old clothes that smell of you can help.
  • Giving your dog something to occupy him, such a treat-filled Kong, when you first go out will help.

After each period of time apart, reward the dog when you return, but only if they remain calm when they see you again.  The best way to do this is to be relaxed and ignore any excited behaviour. Your dog will calm down. When he does, pay him some attention and reward him accordingly. Remember! If your dog has messed or even destroyed anything – YOU MUST REMAIN CALM. Do not punish or scold your dog in any way. This will only make matters worse.

Practice these suggestions regularly during these difficult times. They will help most dogs.