With local pet owners staying #HealthyatHome, Kentuckiana’s dogs are loving the extra walks, attention and time they get to spend with their families. But as the region prepares to slowly open up businesses, all this extra time with our pets may coming to an end for many families.
That’s why the Kentucky Humane Society is recommending that families start preparing their dogs for changes to their schedules. Some dogs may react by showing signs of loneliness and even separation anxiety when their owners leave the house.
According to KHS behavior trainer Kait Seyel CPDT-KA, separation anxiety issues result in dogs becoming overly stressed and often destructive in the home when their families leave. Signs may include eliminating in the house, barking, howling, chewing, self-injury and trying to escape when they are left alone.
To help ensure that their dogs’ transition into “post-quarantine” life goes smoothly, Seyal recommends that pet parents start planning now using the following tips:
- Teach your dog to enjoy spending time alone on their own, even when you’re in the house. This includes giving your dog a comfy place to relax that is their space, such as a crate or special room.
- Before you leave, make sure your dog has had plenty of mental and physical exercise. This might include a long “sniff” walk, playing fetch in the yard, or training games.
- Puzzle toys and long-lasting treats can help keep your pet occupied when you are gone. Just make sure they are sturdy and won’t become choking hazards.
- Rehearse leaving the house; wake up at your usual “go to work” time and complete your basic routine, including providing enrichment for your dog. Then place your dog in her crate or room and quietly leave.
- A white noise machine or soft music may help mask sounds and reduce your dog’s stress.
- Start off being gone for just a few minutes – you could go back to bed, go to another room, or take a short drive around the block.
- Return calmly and let your dog out when she is relaxed.
- Build up the time you are away slowly, and if your dog becomes anxious again, practice the steps above and reduce your dog’s time alone.
- Once your dog learns to remain relaxed when you leave, continue to practice to help her stay safe and secure.
- After you have returned to work, you might want to alter your family’s schedule or have someone stop by to check on your dog to help her ease back into a normal schedule, following the tips outlined above.
- Still having issues? Consult a qualified professional trainer for a specially designed training plan to help you and your dog.
For help preparing your dog for success through virtual training consultations, contact the KHS Community Behavior Department at [email protected] or 502-253-2883. KHS’ certified trainers use science-based positive reinforcement techniques to help you develop a better relationship with your dog.