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How to prevent dog separation anxiety

by Alison Cornmell

The Government’s Covid ‘roadmap’ announcement sees lockdown restrictions gradually eased off in the coming weeks/months and outlines a phased return to ‘normality’.

Knowsley Council’s Environmental Health team is encouraging dog owners to start preparing their pooch for a time when they won’t be around as much which could bring on separation anxiety.

The Dog’s Trust explain that dogs can develop separation anxiety if they’re not used to spending time on their own. Signs include dogs becoming upset or destructive when they’re left alone. They might go to the toilet indoors or even howl and bark which, as well as being distressing for your household, may also cause a nuisance for your neighbours.

Puppies adopted during lockdown might not have been home alone yet. Leaving them on their own as we go back to our ‘new normal’ lives may well lead to separation anxiety. Older dogs may have seemed fine with being alone before lockdown – but they’ll have become used to everyone being at home over the last year.

If your dog was used to being alone before lockdown, start to get them used to it again. Build it up slowly, to prepare them for being alone in the house when the rest of you go back to work or school.

The Dog’s Trust offer the following advice:

  • Make sure your dog has a comfy bed or den where they can relax.
  • Give them something fun to keep busy with, like a puzzle toy or long-lasting treat.
  • While they’re enjoying it, move away briefly, then return and reward them for staying.
  • Build up to spending time in a different room and build this into their daily routine.
  • Build up the time and distance of separation, until they stay calm and settled when you go out.
  • If your dog shows any sign of worry, you’ve progressed too fast – go back a stage and leave them for a shorter time.
  • If your dog is already showing signs of separation anxiety, get in touch with your vet.