When the flu we call covid hit 17 months ago, the world got flipped upside down and turned inside out. We went from living freely to being locked down, heavily restricted, forced to wear masks, and prohibited from being with friends and family. The mental, emotional, physical, and financial impact of this has been – and continues to be – astronomical. And in many parts of the country, restrictions and masking orders are still in place.
To combat the overwhelming stress of all of this, many people who didn’t have them before went out and bought or adopted pets. The companionship would help those who were alone and isolated cope much better, and those with families could focus their attention on something other than the relentless negativity bombarding them.
But, no one thought about the potential impact the dogs would suffer when life started to return to a more normal state. If anything, many people assumed their dogs would simply adapt to them leaving for periods of time, and they would be fine.
But, they’re not fine. The dogs people brought into their lives to help them cope with the impacts of covid restrictions and lock-downs are now in desperate need of help themselves. For almost 17 months, they’ve been with their people almost constantly; now, without any warning, their people are disappearing for long periods of time, and they’re left with nothing to help them get through those absences. Of course they’re going to panic. Of course they’re going to have separation anxiety. Of course they’re going to be fearful, possessive, reactive, nervous.
Adjusting a Covid Dog: Healing Separation Anxiety
The best thing you can do for your dog is to teach them to be comfortable in a crate and alone in that crate for different periods of time ranging from a few minutes to as long as four hours. Start by teaching them to accept periods of alone time when you’re home. It’s a slow process, especially with a covid dog, but if you practice several times a day and you’re calm, relaxed, and patient, your dog will learn that their crate means calmness and relaxation. They’ll learn that it’s their safe zone for when you’re away. And if you have to leave your dog alone for more than four hours, do the right thing and hire a dog walker to come and take your dog out for a potty break, a good drink, and even a nice walk. This breaks up the monotony of isolation for your dog, it gives them some social time, and it creates a positive association not only with their crate, but with your leaving, too.
Another important point to make about teaching your dog how to be alone is for you to be quiet. Don’t talk to your dog when you’re leaving; that makes their anxiety worse, not better. Just kennel them, give them a treat or a good chew toy to occupy them while they’re crated, and leave. The less you engage with them during this time, the less anxious they will be.
If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety or presenting other unwanted behaviours and you aren’t sure about starting the process of resolving them, please don’t get frustrated and give up. Instead, find a trainer to help you. It will make all the difference.
Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.