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Is your dog suffering from anxiety? Our canine expert Ruth has the answer
With many of us returning back to our places of work, and for our children go back to school, colleges and in some cases university we find again we are changing not only our lifestyle habits but those of our pets, especially our dogs.
For both adults and children alike, some will be able to take it in their stride, while others may suffer with some nerves and or anxiety.
During the recent months, I am sure that our pets have helped us through these difficult times, I know that our own family dog Wessex, has enjoyed having us all around more, and we have enjoyed the extra time with him.
With our dogs, they have had us at their, bark and paw, (beck and call), with lots of extra walks, playing with toys, balls and games. Lots of grooming, and treats for being very good. I am sure that we have all enjoyed the extra cuddles, and in some cases, changing the rules in the house, from:- not going onto the sofa and beds, to oh just a nice cuddle while watching tv on the sofa or allowing them to sleep on the bed. I know of some people who have let their dogs curl up to sleep on their kids beds at night. Nothing wrong in this, it’s comforting for both children and dogs, however don’t suddenly decide that this needs to change on the day when your house returns back to some form of daily routine with work and school.
Dogs get stressed when things change, and they don’t know what is going to happen next.
They can show this in many ways, panic, fear and nervousness.
Common signs which show that a dog may be feeling anxious when left alone are:-
- Toileting indoors, when usually they toilet in the garden or out on walks.
- Becoming more vocal, barking, whining.
- Chewing up soft furnishings, i.e. cushions, bedding, carpets or personal belongings.
- Becoming restless and pacing up and down.
These are just a few signs. Some dogs however may not display any signs at all, but still can become upset when their owners leave the home.
If you feel that your dog is showing signs of anxiety when you leave the house then you can set up a pet camera. This will give you a good idea of how your dog is feeling whilst you are away. You may find they curl up and sleep, or they watch passersby, play with their toys and are totally chilled out, or they can be displaying one or more of the signs which could show your dog is feeling distressed.
So what can we do to help prevent any separation problems:-
- Try leaving them for short periods of time, whilst you are still in the house. You could try going into another room, where they do not go, or step outside either into your garden, or out of your front door and walk to the next house along, (if your dog sits and watches out of the window, ensure you are out of their eyeline). Wait a few minutes, then return. If your dog has stayed calm and relaxed then reward them with a treat. You can then slowly begin to increase the time of separation, so that they know when you come back, if they have been good they get a reward.
- Some dogs like listening to the radio, whichever your regular station may be, or try Classic FM, some dogs seem to like listening to this type of music. Whatever station you leave on, have it playing quietly in the background.
- Try to take your dog for a walk, before you leave the house. Once they have been out, and done their business and exercised their legs, they are more likely to relax and stay settled, in your absence.
- Do your best to keep calm as this is the best way to keep your dog calm. Once we get anxious and running around chasing our tails, grabbing school/work bags, hurriedly putting packed lunches together etc., our dogs will pick up on all this nervous energy, and it will transfer over to them. We then leave the house, and this is when the dogs begin to worry even more, as they do not know what has just happened.
- If you know that you are going to be out all day, ask a neighbour, friend, family member or employ a professional dog walker, to either call in on your dog, so that they can be let out and stretch their legs, and toilet outside. You can also take your dog to doggy day care, with a registered boarder. Here your dog will get lots of attention, stimulation and exercise whilst you are out of the house for the day. (Please always check they are registered and insured.)
- Getting your dog to have a good hours exercise with someone, will also help with keeping them relaxed during the day. It is a great opportunity to allow them to have a good stimulated walk / run in a park etc. where there are lots of sights, sounds and smells for them to investigate as well as other dogs to play with. Following their walk, dogs tend to settle down, and relax again for the next few hours, waiting for you to return.
- If you think your dog has been vocal, whilst you are away, ask a neighbour where possible, if they have heard your dog, and if so was it constant, or sporadic. They may bark at the postman, or delivery driver, and then settle down after a few minutes. When you arrive home, your dog may be barking, this generally is because they are excited to see you, and are showing their excitement, if they have just started barking as you arrive. However if they have been barking all day, then it could mean they are feeling distressed. This is when you need to put something in place to help your dog to calm down.
When you come in from being at work / school etc., if your dog has done something naughty, please do not shout at them, or hit them. This will only make the situation worse. Use these signs, to work with your dog, to help make them a happy pet whilst you are away.
If your dog does not already have their own quiet space, then create one for them. Leave them with familiar toys, a bed and blanket, and always ensure there is a bowl of fresh water for them.
There are many other helpful tips and techniques which can be applied to help your beloved dog feel happy and relaxed whilst you are out. The above just gives you some initial ideas.
During the lockdown period, many families have purchased a puppy to enhance their family, if this is the case, and everyone in your home will be out for long periods of time, please make arrangements for them to be allowed a toilet break and stretch of their legs.
I hope that everyone has a good transition, back into the workplace, school, college, university etc. and that we all can continue to enjoy life with our puppies/dogs for many months and years to come.
@Ruth’s Dog Walking Services
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