At a time like this, my last wish would be to scare anyone with horror stories of separation anxiety! That is not my intention at ALL so please don't take anything negative away from this blog post. In recent times we have all been at home a LOT more than usual. Some of us are working from home all day, every day, and some of us are unable to work at all. I will assume that for most of us, whatever our situations, life has indeed simply changed. The chances are your usual and predictable established routines have altered, and in conjunction with that, so has the routine your dog has.
All of this extended time with our dogs lately, whilst it has felt lovely I am sure, is not necessarily hugely healthy. There are various things to consider here. One of these, is separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can occur when a dog becomes extremely distressed or anxious when they are separated or isolated from their owner. This can be a serious behaviour problem, however largely I would hope you have all prepared your pups for separation from an early age! Tut tut if you haven't! ;) Nevertheless, we are now spending an awful lot of time with our dogs, unexpectedly, and forcibly, only to suddenly leave them to return to 'normal life' again when this is all over (when is this all ending??!!). What are the repercussions of this?
I would not be doing my job if I didn't advise that ANY sudden or unexpected behaviour change your dog displays should always be treated with caution and you should always consult your vet for advice, enabling you to rule out any underlying medical issues.
Separation anxiety can be caused by varying factors, including poor preparation for isolation as a puppy (get in touch for help with preparation!), boredom OR sudden alteration in routine or situation/cirumstance. Aha!!! That's what we have here! Sadly.
There is no need to panic about this, it is perfectly do-able to eliminate the possibility of this becoming an issue when we all return to our regular working days and life reverts back to 'normal'.
1. Give them space! - Make sure your puppy/dog has somewhere to go to escape YOU. No offence intended but you might get sick of looking at your face 24/7 too :) Provide a 'safe space', a place to relax uninterrupted.
2. Rest/sleep - Ensure you are allowing your puppy or dog to rest enough. Whilst it's tempting to be constantly entertaining your dog all day, this is not healthy. I always advise puppy owners to be very mindful and considered when planning the quantity and quality of exercise for their puppy. I don't want an athlete, I want a dog who will adapt to MY lifestyle fairly easily. Games, training, enrichment, all good fun but don't do this ALL day. You don't want a dog expecting such activities 24/7 forever, do you? Unless you are prepared to offer it, of course.
3. Routine - Granted it's not your NORMAL routine, but it's a flexible routine nonetheless. I use the word 'flexible' on purpose, but that's for another day.
4. Separation - Try to spend some time away from your puppy/dog every day. I don't mean you need to hide in your kitchen with the door shut for hours, just a little bit of time separated will help prepare your puppy or dog for life returning (or if you have a puppy, beginnings of) to normality.
5. Settle - Encourage your pup/dog to settle. You haven't taught your puppy how to settle?? Whaaatttt??? Don't worry, this is the perfect time for that (get in touch for advice on how). Self-settling, and indeed teaching your puppy how to accept not only boredom, but teaching them to self-entertain too, is one million percent invaluable long term.
There is so much you can do to ensure your puppy or dog doesn't find the transition back to normal life a stressful event. It's nothing to panic or worry about, but it's definitely worth remembering. Teach new tricks, have fun with your dog, enjoy spending your days together (I do!), but keep in mind the long term effects of building unrealistic and unachieable long term expectations for your dog. It won't end well!!
If you need help or advice regarding your new puppy, feel free to get in touch! :)