There’s no denying we’re living in unprecedented times. As we all work to rearrange our lives during the COVID-19 crisis, some family members may be feeling more vulnerable than others. While it’s important to maintain your relationships with the people in your life, it’s important to consider your pet’s welfare too, including the possibility of pet separation anxiety.
Pets Have Social Needs Too
With everyone at home, it’s not surprising if the pets at home start experiencing some stress. You might notice strange behavior in your pets as they adjust to sharing the house at all hours. You’ve probably heard all about the importance of keeping a schedule with your kids, and for the sake of your own mental health. But it’s also important for your pets.
Though you probably have more time to spend with your pets, try to keep them on the same feeding and walking schedule. Spending time at home with pets is a great way to ease pandemic stresses. But remember, your dogs or cats have social needs of their own. And it’s important to remember, as restrictions begin to ease and you start leaving again, that your pets may start to show signs of separation anxiety.
Symptoms of Pet Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can cause a lot of stress in your pets. In turn, it can lead to behavioral issues, and even self-harming behaviors or health problems. As you plan to leave the house more often, it’s a good idea to watch for these signs. Spotting separation anxiety early will make fixing the problem easier on both you and Fido.
Signs to watch for pets experiencing separation anxiety:
- Crying and howling
- Housebreaking transgressions
- Overgrooming, hairballs or bald patches.
- Destructive behavior like tearing, shredding, or scratching that happens when the animal is alone.
- Changes in appetite
- In extreme cases, stress can cause diarrhea or intestinal distress
Plan for Post-COVID 19
There are several steps to take to help your pets readjust to a life of not having you home. Many of them are the same techniques you’ve used when you were training your pets. Follow these tips, and you’ll make the transition period easier for everyone.
Keep it Cozy
Create a safe and cozy space for your pets, with their toys, bed, and food. It should be big enough for them to comfortably move around in, but away from the regular traffic in the house.
Take It In Stages
Start small. Give them time to readjust to the closed-off space you’ve designated. You can make it easier on them by playing soothing music or leaving the TV on. You can also provide them with stimulation, by providing treats, and toys to keep them busy. Start with short periods of time, like 15-20 minutes. You can slowly extend the time as your pet gets more comfortable.
Use A Reward System
True, treat training may lead to overweight pets under extreme circumstances. It is true, however, that we pay more attention to our animals when they misbehave. Taking time to reward a nervous or clingy family pet for obedience or calm independence, can make a big difference. This can be accomplished with a toy, or even just excited petting and praise.
When a dog does act up, redirection with a command like “sit” or “down” can help stop a repeat offense. The goal is to pay more attention to your pet when it’s doing the right thing, as opposed to the wrong thing, so they’ll readjust and learn that obedience will give them more attention in the long run.
*Note if you’re not seeing a change in behavior, or if training is causing more stress than it’s alleviating, you may want to consult with a specialist. Many vet practices are offering online consultations to help with social distancing measures.
As difficult and stressful as COVID-19 has been on our families (and social and work lives), it’s also been a chance to reconnect at home. Strengthening family connections is great, and our pets need some of that attention too. Though we’re eager to get back to normal, it’s important to remember the effects the changes will have on our furry family members. Focus on making the transition go smoothly for both you and your pet’s sake. Check out our dog walking services to help manage your pet separation anxiety in Los Angeles.