As many of us are staying home, our dogs (especially newly adopted dogs) are not experiencing much time alone. When life resumes and people leave the house to go back to work, school, and other activities our dogs may experience separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious behavioral problem where the dog becomes panicked when the owner leaves. The most common symptoms are: non-stop barking; destructive chewing; house soiling; and desperate attempts to get out of the house or crate.
The following can prevent separation anxiety:
• Make short, frequent trips out of the house without your dog - go for a walk or drive.
• Keep your departures and arrivals low-key. Don’t make a big deal about leaving or be too excited to see them when you return.
• Give them something fun to do while you are gone - food stuffed toys to chew on.
• Teach them to be comfortable and secure in a crate - feed meals in the crate, crate them for short intervals while you are home.
“I’ll Be Home Soon! How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety” by Patricia B. McConnell, PhD. is a good resource.
Newly acquired puppies may be missing out on the crucial socialization period as you are unable to attend training classes or playgroups during this time. Even newly adopted adult dogs may miss out on socializing with other dogs. Some of these dogs may not have been well socialized before they came to you which can make it harder for them when we are released from our homes. Dogs who are used to spending time with other dogs might regress when it comes doggy social skills. The inability to introduce newly acquired dogs to people and new environments can also be detrimental to their sociability.
To socialize your dogs while socially distancing try the following:
• Practice your leash walking skills and take them out walking. As the weather improves you should encounter other people out, with or without their dogs, and you will be able to expose your dog to new situations from a distance.
• Ask friends and family with dogs to meet you for a socially distant hike.
• Expose your dog to new sounds and objects within your home and yard (vacuum cleaner, lawn mover, delivery trucks).
As dog trainers are not considered an essential business, you will need to train your dog without the help of a professional. There is an abundance of material available to help you teach basic manners. As you sort through all the information make sure you are using positive training methods. Aversive training methods (shock collars, punishment) can cause stress, anxiety, and pain for your dogs.
Here are some resources to help you train your dog:
• “Clicking with Your Dog” by Peggy Tillman
• “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Positive Dog Training” by Pamela Dennison • www.clickertraining.com
• Youtube videos (as long as they use positive training methods)
• Any books, websites, and videos by Karen Pryor, Bob Bailey, Emma Parsons, Victoria Stillwell, Kathy Sdao, Jean Donaldson, Kay Laurence
- Martha Palermo, New Beginnings Dog Training April 2020