Weeks, even months have passed since stay-at-home orders were issued across the globe, and now more than ever people are itching for things to return back to normal. But what about our beloved canine friends? What will our dogs’ lives look like when shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted?
According to Roger Mugford, an animal psychology expert and dog trainer for Queen Elizabeth’s corgis, “With such an overload of quality time with their families, dogs are building up a huge reservoir of over-dependency.” And as soon as restrictions are lifted, our pups could possibly “suffer when mums and dads suddenly return to work and the children go back to school.”
For some dogs, stay-at-home orders have opened the door to strange behaviors, while other dogs are soaking up the quality time they get with their owners. It’s like one endless weekend to them. But animal experts believe that when restrictions are lifted, what our dogs consider their “new normal” will yet again change, potentially causing them to experience anxiousness, particularly around you leaving and not being home.
So what are the signs of anxious behavior in dogs? And could they be showing these signs even while you’re at home 24/7?
Separation anxiety in dogs
First things first: What is separation anxiety in dogs?
For the most part, dog separation anxiety can occur when your pet is left alone for any amount of time. In other extreme cases, separation anxiety will occur even while the owner is home but in another room such as the bathroom, bedroom, or other parts of the house where their dog can’t see them. Sadly, 20% to 40% of dogs in North America that are referred to animal behavior practices are diagnosed with separation anxiety. As common as this condition is for our dogs, this percentage doesn’t include the amount of dogs that will be affected when shelter-in-place orders are lifted. This is especially true for dogs that were previously left alone when their owners were gone for work 8-12 hours a day.
Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and zoologist, suggests that separation anxiety in dogs is the equivalent to a panic attack. For a dog, separation anxiety can bring on unexplained terror or panic for no reason, causing their heartbeat to increase and a surge of adrenaline to take over. It’s then that our beloved pets can begin expressing disturbing behaviors. This is what separation anxiety is like for our canine friends.
So how can we tell if our beloved pup has separation anxiety?
How to determine if your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety
The best way to determine if your dog is suffering or showing signs of separation anxiety is to put up a webcam in your home and watch your dog while you’re out. If a webcam is too hard to come by, try venturing into a room out of sight from your pup and listen for any signs that your pup may be struggling with separation anxiety.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, anytime a dog is under stress or experiences anxiety, they may display strange and unsettling behaviors such as:
- Urinating, defecating, and vomiting in the house.
- Chewing on objects around the house.
- Destructive scratching and digging into the couch, floor, or doors.
- Howling, barking, whining, trembling, panting, or drooling excessively and persistently when you leave or when you return.
- Trying to escape out of the house, bedroom, crate, or backyard.
- Pacing excessively in a circular pattern or in a straight line.
These behaviors can often result in self-injuries to your dog’s paws, nails, and teeth.
While more time with our canine friends sounds like a dream come true for you and your dog, experts question if staying home 24/7 will cause more harm than good when life returns to normal. The sudden change in routine can cause them to respond in a number of ways, and just when they start getting used to having you home 24/7, the world opens up again, and our pups are thrown off their new routine. Veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Karen Sueda tells Insider, “Dogs thrive on consistency and predictability, as we all do, so any time there’s an abrupt change, it can cause stress.” Now more than ever, we need to focus on our beloved dogs’ mental health regardless if we think our fur babies are showing signs of separation anxiety or not.
So how can we prepare our sweet pups for separation when this pandemic quarantine ends?
3 Ways to prepare your dog for when quarantine ends
Unfortunately, there is no “cure all” for these issues. However, animal experts do recommend pet owners to slowly train their canine friends in adapting to separation now before all lockdown restrictions are lifted. Below we’ve listed 3 ways to prepare your dog for when quarantine ends.
Establish a routine
It’s inevitable for retail stores, restaurants, and other businesses to reopen, and that means jobs will return. That said, it’s important to prepare your pup for when you’ll be away now rather than later. Go through your daily schedule as you would prior to the lockdown, even if it means you’ll only be gone for a couple of hours at a time. Make sure your dog has everything they need before you head out: food, water, a long walk, etc. Developing a routine can help your pup understand that it’s ok to be alone for a period of time, because they know you’ll always return.
Find out what triggers your dog’s separation anxiety
It’s important to understand that certain things can trigger your dog into feeling stressed, like the sound of keys, grabbing your purse or backpack, or even putting on your shoes. Certified canine behavior consultant and professional dog trainer Jamie Gregory recommends to “pick up your keys, carry them around and give the dog a treat. When you put on your shoes, walk around the house and throw a toy. Carry your purse or backpack around the house.” Gregory believes these actions will reinforce the notion that these triggers are positive rather than negative—thus creating a healthy “positive emotional response” when you plan to leave for the day.
Try using CBD to ease your dog’s separation anxiety
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the many compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. While its origin may seem alarming, hemp-derived CBD is nontoxic and it cannot get your dog “high”. Unfortunately, there are no formal studies involving CBD and separation anxiety in dogs. However, there are studies that show CBD promotes a calming effect in both animal models and humans. In fact one study, Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders,” stated that CBD is known as a regulator of fear and anxiety-related behaviors. Other, more formal studies showcase that CBD has strong anti-inflammatory properties that support a normal inflammatory response in dogs.
While more scientific studies are needed, anecdotal reports from pet owners demonstrate just how effective CBD for dogs can be. That said, it’s important to note that there are CBD companies out there looking to cut corners just to make a buck. As pet parents, it’s our duty to seek out only the best and safest products for our canine friends. Here at Holistic Hound we only offer products we give to our own pets. We pride ourselves in formulating top of the line organic CBD oils and CBD bites for all of our furry friends. Each of our products are thoroughly tested for potency, label accuracy, and safety.
While we’re all preparing for the world to open up again, just remember your canine friends in the process. Their world and routine has been drastically changed just as much as ours, and as pet owners we should start preparing them now for what happens when quarantine ends. For additional ways to calm your anxious pup down, click here.