Lockdown has most definitely affected humans and doggos alike, from having their favourite humans by their side 24/7 to being on their own can be distressing.
Similarly, having a new puppy who is getting used to having a routine without you for the first time can be equally as distressing. We need to help our pups to settle whilst you are not home and understand that you are coming back.
There are subtle things that we do throughout our working day that your dog will be watching and very sensitive to. They will pick up on and predict what is going to happen next every time we move in our seat, or move around the house. Whether this is walking to the fridge for food, getting ready for a walk (both super exciting and positive experiences, as it could mean food or exercise for your dog) or getting ready to go out and leave your dog behind (super anxious as it is a negative experience for them). These are called ‘predictors’.
Examples of predictors:
- Moving in your seat to get comfortable
- Standing up to get a drink or go to the toilet
- Walking to the front door
- Picking up your shoes
- Putting on a top/coat/hoodie
- Picking up your keys
- Walking to the door
- Picking up their lead/harness
You will see their behaviour change as they try to predict what is happening. This can be a positive or a negative experience for them. If you are unsure of what behaviour changes to look out, check out this video below to see if your dog is possibly experiencing separation anxiety:
If you think your dog is experiencing separation anxiety, do not worry. There are things that you can start to implement to change that negative to a positive.
Things you can start to implement:
Turn Predictors into a more positive experience to show it doesn’t mean they will be getting left
- Pick up keys, put keys back down
- Go to coat, pick it up, and put it back down
- Put coat on, take coat off
You can make these a non-event, to reassure your pup that there is nothing to worry about here.
With all examples, please make sure that your pup isn’t getting distressed. If you are seeing any signs of anxiety, stop and come back to it later or scale it back and repeat the smaller steps. You can repeat these a few times a day, spaced out through the day. This will reassure them that these predictors, don’t always mean negative things.
If these simple steps are still distressing for your pup, try and pair them with something positive i.e. scatter feed prior to jangling the keys, or moving to your coat.
Try these next steps with a long lasting chew/ their favourite toy.
- Walk to the door, walk back away from the door.
- Walk to the door, open it, close it again
- Walk to the door, open it, walk outside, close it, walk straight back in
Does your dog look up? Does your dog stand up? Does your dog run to the door and bark?
Ideally, we would like your dog to chew on their chew/ play with their toy with having as little reaction as possible. If they look up and go back to their chew, then their anxiety is at an acceptable level to move on to the next step. However scale it back if this anxiety increases.
All of the above examples are things you can do whilst you are at home and aren’t going anywhere. This will help them to cope when you do go out, as they know you will be coming back and the experience isn’t as daunting.
Start to leave them on their own for small amounts of time.
Start small and build it up in small increments of time, appropriate to your pup. Even if you are upstairs whilst they are downstairs, in the garden whilst they are in the house, or if you have a dog room, pop them in there for a small amount of time.
Look and listen out for signs of distress. You do not want it to be an anxiety filled experience, so if you have any concerns, scale it back and reduce the time they’re left.
Leave your dog with a long lasting chew, a filled bone, a Kong, a snuffle mat, or a Calm mat.
The Calm mats, as an example, can be left for your dog whilst you leave the room. The treats can be their kibble, boiled carrots, banana, pet pate, wet food spread across and into the grooves of the mat. It can be stacked a little higher than the mat and it can also be frozen if you would like more of a challenge for your dog. Chewing and licking releases endorphins and therefore naturally lowers stress and anxiety levels in our pups.
Give your dog something to do whilst you are apart.
Brain games are the perfect way to give your dog something to do, lower their anxiety levels and give their brains a mental workout. If your dog is left with nothing to do, they will be more likely to fret, resulting in destructive behaviours and heightened anxiety. Giving them an outlet for their energy, will prevent their anxiety, boredom and frustration of being left alone. One example of a simple brain game that you can do whilst you are still at home and leaving the room is the Egg Box game. Your dog can work to retrieve their treat in a fun way, which will take time and mental energy to work out.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of our Free Brain Games PDF part 1.
Get a member of your family to check in whilst you are at work.
If you are struggling to find family or friend to step in, hire a local dog walker who will pop in and spend some time with your pup or take them on a solo or group adventure with their dog pals.
Always make sure that they are reputable, check out their testimonials that they are insured, DBS checked and hold qualifications to ensure that your dog is in safe hands.
Paula’s Pet Services cover Dog Walking and Dog Training in Southport, Hillside, Birkdale, Ainsdale, Crossens, Churchtown, Formby, Freshfield and some other areas of Sefton and West Lancashire on request.
Check out our services on https://www.paulaspetservices.co.uk
If you are concerned that the matter is more serious, please consult a qualified Behaviourist who can assess and devise a plan of action for you to implement.