COVID-19 Lockdown, Separation & Dog Behaviour Problems
Potential for Dog Separation Behaviour Problems After Lockdown
In the coronavirus pandemic, your dog may have had more attention and interaction from the family, than it did before lockdown. Previously your dog had a routine of being left alone, to which it was accustomed. Lockdown with the dog may mean you are present 24 hours a day. Dogs thrive on routine. The skill of feeling safe when the owner is absent, has not been practiced. As lockdown lifts, schedules change, or employment returns, perhaps suddenly. When the family schedule changes e.g.; the owner works longer, or for different hours, which result in the dog being alone for longer, it can initiate separation issues, or even separation anxiety. A change in owner present time has been found to be one of the factors that can start separation issues. Anon APPCA (2020)
An owner may find that their dog has separation issues, after lockdown has ended and the family go back to normal routines. Each dog is an individual. There may be an increase in attention seeking behaviour, attachment, other behaviour, or separation issues due to the change in owners time at home. An owner may seek help with the behavioural changes.
Help Your Dog Self-Settle in Lockdown
For dogs previously ok when you went out, it would be smart to begin to revise self settling skills at home in lockdown. It would be prudent to consider gradual changes back to your normal routine.
Use a room that your dog has previously relaxed in when you were out. Ensure it is comfortable and not too hot or cold. Leave your dog every day, for a short time while you are quietly busy at home. Absent for a brief time 5-20 mins to begin. Always return before your dog is distressed.
Separation issues are best addressed with a tailored behaviour modification plan. Detailed advice, bespoke for your dog is available. For dogs with barrier frustration, constant following, attention seeking, cannot self settle in a separate room, or for those dogs which exhibit other more acute separation behaviour problems, when you are absent, becoming highly distressed. A behaviour consult is wise.
Helping Separation Issues
If you are experiencing separation problems, it is important to assess each dog and situation individually. A behaviour plan can be tailored to you and your dog. Some dogs may attention seek, or follow you around home. When a dog is alone and separated from the owner, not all dog behaviour problems are separation anxiety. There are also other important factors to analyse, that determine if it is separation anxiety, other separation issues, or another behaviour problem that is making your dog behave in the manner that is concerning you. Some similar behaviours may be for example due to medical reasons, noises, lack of housetraining, frustration, or other behavioural reasons Mc Crave E (1991).
When deciding on the cause of the unwanted behaviour the intensity and frequency of the exhibited behaviour is important.The behaviour of the dog before, during and after separation from their owner, were also found to be important to diagnose and decide how to make a behavioural plan for the individual dog. Mc Crave E (1991).
For the cases that are, separation anxiety it can be a stressful condition for your dog and worrying for an owner too. Going out and leaving your dog can feel impossible. A dog will have a threshold over which it will become anxious alone. Your dog should not be left alone for longer that it can cope without reacting. This must be consistent. A layered behavioural plan will need to begin. With separation anxiety in dogs, it is normal to expect improvement to take time.
Other Dog Behaviour Problems That Could Be Highlighted In Lockdown
A behaviour consultation can support owners to help their dog, if your dogs behaviour has changed, unwanted behaviour has become more apparent and is now of concern, since lockdown, or you have not had time to addressed it, before lockdown.
- Perhaps when walking on lead your dog is pulling, which is now more frustrating, as your dog is required to be on lead more often.
- Advice to give a new puppy the best start in life. Important puppy life skills and how to do deal with normal puppy development and behaviour problems. Essential to help prevent dog behaviour problems.
- Some dogs exhibit dog – dog aggression (some owners may have noticed improvements due to social distancing- but the aggressive reaction is not resolved). When Lockdown is eased the increase to the normal amount of people, or dogs and their proximity on walks, maybe too intense for some dogs with fear of dogs.
- Your dog may be following you around the house more frequently with increased attention seeking.
- Perhaps you notice your dog barking, or jumping up.
- You may need help influencing your dog to adjust back to the normal family routine.
- There are many other complex dog behaviour problems. You may like help with another dog behaviour issue to bring harmony back to your dog and your family.
Canine Whispers are currently offering ‘Virtual Dog Behaviour Consultations’ during lockdown.
Please phone or email to discuss this option. Behaviour concerns that require face to face consultations will currently be held after lockdown. The vet form on our website can still be sent to your vet prior to consultation. Your vet will decide if the dog needs to be examined or not, or if there is an underlying medical problem affecting or contributing to unwanted behaviour.
Anon APPCA (2020)Separation anxiety. Available from; https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/separation-anxiety. Accessed 16/4/20. Mc Crave E (1991)Diagnostic criteria for separation anxiety. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Available from; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195561691500309.Accessed 16/4/20. Storengen el at (2016) a descriptive study of 215 dogs diagnosed with separation anxiety. Elsevier vol 159. Applied animal Behaviour science. Available from; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159114001890. Accessed 16/4/20.