Have you returned to the office under relaxed lockdown regulations and are now facing yet another challenge with your unruly furry friend who has grown accustomed to you being at home?

Are neighbours complaining about incessant barking while you are not home?

Fact is, the lockdown has taken its toll on our four-legged friends. The first survey on the impact of lockdown - especially on dogs - found that the pandemic has negatively impacted the behaviour of more than a quarter of pets. Desperate dog owners have called on experts to help iron out behavioural problems including barking, howling, biting and the destruction of property.

Never in the history of modern mankind have pets been so important in our lives. Enjoying constant companionship and getting extra attention has been great for both pet and owner. Generally speaking, dogs are pack animals; they love having their family around 24/7. However, it will hurt when it stops.

The easing of the lockdown restrictions as we settle into our “new normal” are likely to cause stress to pets who have become accustomed to the lockdown existence. Separation anxiety is real, and now is a good time to focus on good behaviour obedience training that you may have started when your dog was a puppy.

We have a few pointers on how to deal with separation anxiety

  • Do a bit of gradual training first. Start by leaving the house for just a few minutes. Slowly increase the length of time away from home. Gradually your dog will learn to trust that you will return.
  • Teach him to be independent. Teaching your dog not to follow you around the house is a great idea because it will help him not to rely on you being present all the time. If he follows you, don’t speak to him, touch him, or make eye contact. Don’t feel mean doing this, you’re teaching him that following you everywhere is boring!
  • Establish a leaving routine. Use a special word or phrase (that you only use when you leave) for example “Stay and be good”. Routine lets your dog know what comes next, consistency will help him to feel secure.
  • Take him for a walk in the morning before you leave. This might wear him out for a few hours while you are away.
  • Provide entertainment. Food-related toys or chews are a great way to keep his mind occupied.
  • Create a safe zone. Make sure he has a cosy bed to retreat to. Leave a t-shirt with your smell in his bed to comfort him.
  • Don’t punish him. Whenever you return to a mess or destruction at home, don’t punish him. This could lead to him becoming worried about you returning.
  • Leave the radio on to help muffle external noises.
  • Ask a friend or a neighbour to check in on him.

If unacceptable behaviour is not addressed, it could cause more separation anxiety and ultimately lead to dogs being abandoned if owners fail to cope. Consult with a registered animal behaviourist or trainer if you need to.

Our pets are working hard to bring us joy. Let them know they are doing a great job!

Source: sundaypost.com, dogstrust.ie, iol.co.za, four-paws.org, independent.co.uk, metro.co.uk, theconverstion.com, northglennews.co.za, londonvets.co.uk, abc.net.au

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.