OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It is estimated that 50% of all dogs had separation anxiety before the pandemic.
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Now it is closer to 80%, says David Codr, a pet behaviorist with Dog Gone Problems.
This past year has been great for pets. With many people working from home, pets have gotten plenty of attention. But, as people head back to the office, this can cause separation anxiety in some pets.
“For separation anxiety, some dogs will pant, drool, bark, chew. Some dogs have a soiling issue and the most common issue and misconception is that it is intentional,” said Codr.
Codr says any type of punishment in these cases will make it worse.
“My dog pooped on my bed to send me a message of ‘Don’t leave me home alone.’ Dogs are not that sophisticated. They simply go to the place where they feel most comfortable, where they feel the most relaxed, and they lose control of their bowels,” continues Codr.
To help with separation anxiety, you should go through relaxation protocols. In relaxation protocol training, you are working to get the dog used to you being away for longer and longer periods of time. When they do well, you give them a treat.
Codr adds that there is some misconception when it comes to the purpose of a crate. It should be used as a positive place where the dog feels safe and secure, and not as a space for punishment.
“If a dog has separation anxiety, it is not going to stop that anxiety and it will make it worse unless you have practiced with your dog to be in the kennel. Dogs have broken their teeth trying to get out of a kennel and some have actually killed themselves sticking their head out of the door. It gets caught, no one is home, and then they suffocate,” adds Codr.
Dogs can also pick up on departure rituals, and that can trigger anxiety as well, so you will want to break that up. Interacting with your dog when leaving and returning also needs to be deliberate.
“When you come home, ignore your dog if he is jumping around. When it calms down, tell it to sit. After a while, your dog will learn that ‘When I am excited, I am invisible. But when I am calm, my guardian pets me. I like my guardian petting me so I am going to be calmer,'” continues Codr.
And it is never too late to teach an older dog new tricks. Dogs can continue to be trained at any age.
Exercising dogs is a great way to calm them down. When walking, let them sniff. Dogs expend a lot of energy sniffing. Another tip, when feeding them try a snuffle mat where they have to sniff out their food.