How to keep your dogs relaxed when left on their own

by Nikki KhanAnd the Nottingham Trent University And the Gina KiddyAnd the University of Cumbria

People around the world are spending more time at home since the start of 2020. For many of these people, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to get a pet.

In the UK alone, it is estimated 3.2 million families They have had a pet since the beginning of the epidemic. Dogs were the most common new acquisition (57%) with cats a close second (38%).

This sudden increase in pet ownership is raising concerns about pet care. Puppies acquired during lockdown have lost important socialization and training experiences, known to be associated with stress-induced behaviors ranging from Neuropathy for fear-based aggression.

It is not only epidemic animals that may show signs of stress or behavioral problems. Life has not been normal for many of our dogs for most of the past year. They have had less interaction with other dogs, fewer visitors coming home and less time alone since the pandemic began.

This has led to a noticeable change in the dogs’ behavior. Growling, biting or nibbling The number of children approached and handled increased by 57% during the lockdown. Google searches for “dog bark” and “dog bite” increased 48% and 40%, respectively, indicating that some aspects of the lockdown period were particularly difficult for our pets.

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As human beings, we tend to focus on the stress of a situation — work deadlines, or paying bills. But stress can be caused by anything that upsets the balance of the body’s hormones. The presence of a stressor triggers a hormonal cascade that culminates in the release of glucose which provides an energy boost designed to help relieve stress. This triggers the fight, flight, or freeze response.

Stressors range from a physical threat, such as a predator, to an unpredictable environment, which our pets may now easily face the restrictions of lockdown. This is not limited to dogs and cats. Changes in routine, especially feeding schedule, have been shown to stimulate stress in birdsAnd the Lamb And the horses.

Is your pet stressed?

Signs of your pet’s stress may be obvious, such as destructive behavior or vocalizations. But, there are also more subtle signs of anxiety, such as panting or drooling, pacing, checking windows and doors frequently, or chewing or scratching themselves.

Unfortunately, closures can have a long-term effect on a pet’s ability to cope when left home alone. Dogs who had separation anxiety before the restrictions started are likely to get worse when they are left again as their owners return to work. But we also expect to see new cases develop, because other dogs, especially puppies, have learned to expect companionship throughout the day.

Search last year 82% of the dog owners surveyed showed that they noticed an increase in their dogs barking or barking when a family member was busy. There has been a 41% increase in reports of dogs hanging out or following people around the house during lockdown. All of these could be indicators of the development of separation anxiety.

Our advice

The good news is that it’s never too late to prepare your dog for lockdown relief, and teach them vital skills they can apply in any situation.

If you start spending more time outside the home, you need to remember that this change in routine is stressful for your pets. Start preventive measures now to avoid future problems.

If you have a dog that was previously used to being left on their own, be sure to maintain their ability to handle this by introducing periods of separation during the day you are home – such as putting them behind the baby gate while you are out. Work from home. Leave your dog at home for short periods.

Gradually build up the amount of time your dog is separated from family members and associate it with something positive, such as a long-term treat.

Watch how your dog responds, and cut back on the remaining time if he shows signs of anxiety.

When dogs are already showing signs of separation anxiety (such as barking, howling, using the toilet, or growling when left on), seek help from your vet first.

Avoid looking for “quick fix” solutions such as anti-bark collars or punishing your dog on return. These approaches are more likely to exacerbate the problem and lead to more serious and more difficult problems to treat in the long term.

Teaching dogs to relax when left takes time and patience, especially for pandemic puppies that have rarely been away from their owners. But making the effort to show your dog that being alone is not stressful, using our advice, can prevent serious problems that are difficult to treat later in life.Conversation

Nikki Khananimal sciences lecturer, Nottingham Trent University And the Gina KiddyVisiting Research Fellow, University of Cumbria; Head of Dog Behavior, Dogs Trust, University of Cumbria

This article has been republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons License. Read the original article.

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