Separation anxiety: What it is, how to spot it and how to combat it
With the light at the end of the lockdown tunnel slowly approaching, we have decided to focus on separation anxiety. We touch on what separation anxiety is, how to spot it and how to combat it. Although this article is dog focused, cats can suffer as well! So for all you cat lovers, we will speak about this at the end.
Human definition: a situation in which people are not allowed to enter or leave a building or area freely because of an emergency.
Pet definition: a situation in which humans have to stay home and love and play and do all the fun with us!
Who else’s dog has LOVED lockdown, having now been in a three-month long doggo-heaven, with you home 24/7? Or maybe you decided to make the most of this extended period at home by adopting a new puppy? Either way, this new or old puppy or dog has been living their best life, with the hope that it is forever!
Dogs are sociable and super loving, so much so that they don’t like to be away from us and feel much more content with us close by. With the end of lockdown slowly but surely approaching, humans will be getting excited, but our furry friends could be getting anxious. “Who is going to bark at the postman with me every morning? Who will I be able to point out every squirrel to? Who will I lay next to in the sun, while they pretend to work?” This dramatic switch of ‘everybody’ to ‘nobody’ home all the time can cause dogs distress, and as a result can lead to separation anxiety.
If you are unsure whether your dog is starting to feel anxious, some telltale indicators include; destructive behaviour, such as chewing or digging; unwanted toileting, in and/or around the house; or an increase of barking/whining, as an attempt at vocalising their unease.
Separation anxiety in dogs is common and is likely to be even more of a common issue after lockdown is lifted. The good news, however, is that it is preventable. We teamed up with behaviour and wellness specialist Junior Hudson, of Heal the Dog, to come up with some top tips to help ease, reduce, and hopefully prevent separation anxiety.
Slowly build up the time you leave your dog alone, from going to another room to leaving the house. Increase the time spent apart, with no fuss or attention when you leave or return; this will help normalise your absence. If your dog has existing separation anxiety or is a puppy, the increase in time will need to be much more gradual - we are talking seconds and minutes!
Make a routine:
Dogs love routine. Feeding times, walks, distancing at a time you would normally be leaving for work. Keeping a daily routine and structure throughout lockdown as close to ‘normality’ as possible will help the switch.
Give them space:
When leaving your dog alone, do so in an area where they feel comfortable and safe even if you’re not around. Leaving their favourite toy (which doesn’t require supervision), calming scents or even leaving the TV or music on can help, as these can all serve as a comforting distraction when adjusting to time away from you.
If you feel none of the above are helping, or that separation anxiety is worsening, reach out to a professional who can guide you through this time.
Enter Junior! A Canine Dietary & Integrative Wellness Consultant, with bags of experience, knowledge and Wednesday Wisdom (every day of the week) when it comes to dog behaviour. Right now, members can book a free 20 minute consultation with him, just to your membership platform.
Cat lovers, read on..
Although by their nature, cats are solitary creatures, domesticated cats can form very close bonds to their owners - this is something only cat lovers can appreciate, too! Everyone out there has seen videos of dogs overwhelmingly happy, bouncing around, barking with joy when their human returns from a long trip, but there aren’t so many videos like this of cats! If you have a very close connection with your cat, which maybe you have always had, or perhaps lockdown has brought you closer - as has been the case for our Founder, Andrew, and his cat, Duchess - then separation anxiety could well be likely.
Symptoms vary from cat to cat, and in some cases, these visible symptoms can mask other illnesses, so the best thing to do is speak to a vet to check for any underlying conditions.
Certain behaviours to look out for though are, a change in mood, with cats acting abnormally affectionate (following around) or unaffectionate (hiding or aggression), excessive self-grooming and an increase in meowing.