There is no doubt that our dogs are enjoying the extra time with us while we are all stuck at home due to the coronavirus quarantines.
As humans, we long for the time that we can get back out and get busy again, but some canine experts are warning that lifting the restrictions and stopping the self-isolation could cause “extreme separation anxiety” in our dogs. After all, they have gotten used to having us around constantly during the lockdown.
“With such an overload of quality time with their families, dogs are building up a huge reservoir of over-dependency,” animal psychology expert Roger Mugford tells the Times. Mugford, who’s known for training Queen Elizabeth’s corgis, adds that the pampered pooches could “suffer when mums and dads suddenly return to work and the children go back to school.”
One veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Karen Seuda, told Insider, “Dogs thrive on consistency and predictability, as we all do, so any time there’s an abrupt change, it can cause stress.”
When things change for our dogs so quickly, it could lead to some unexpected and unusual behaviors. Those behaviors could include everything from defecating and urinating indoors to chewing, howling, and trying to escape, according to the ASPCA. Some of those dogs may panic and end up with the unusual practice of coprophagia, where they defecate and then eat it.
“Put a webcam on your dog, and you’ll see howling and pacing and other distress signs,” Mugford tells the Times.
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According to the ASPCA, separation does more than damage dogs psychologically. The stressed-out dogs could attempt to “dig and chew through doors or windows, which could result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped front paws and damaged nails.”
When you think about the up to 40% of dogs who are diagnosed with separation anxiety upon referral, the possibilities are staggering. The American Veterinary Medical Association warns that it is a frightening proposition.
There is no way to stop all of these problems from occurring but you can help to reduce the issue by acclimating your dog before lockdown ends.
“Allow your pet to have some alone time,” says Sueda. “You have your space, and they have theirs.” If you live in a small apartment or condo, the ASPCA recommends training the dogs by having them stay and then going into another room, such as the bathroom.
Insider reports that separation anxiety specialist Malena DeMartini-Price says, “It’s a gradual process of using small absences that start to teach the dog that absences are safe.” Even though that is the case, abandoning those dogs for even short amounts of time could prove to be quite difficult for the millions of us who are relying on them during the lockdown as well. This includes those who are buying dogs to keep themselves from going stir crazy while the lockdown is ongoing.
Canine specialists are advising any dog owner to keep the animal engaged with crate training, interactive toys, and other enrichment activities.
There may also be some other things that could help with separation anxiety according to Sueda, such as Dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP), white noise, and medications such as Zylkene.
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