So much has happened over the last six weeks. There is no doubt that coronavirus has had a big impact on all of us in the UK – and that includes our pets.
With the advent of coronavirus lockdown our routines and lifestyles changed overnight. Children’s schools closed, employees started working from home and all our social activities came to a stop.
For many key workers, coronavirus has had an impact on daily routines and lifestyles in different ways – for example, changing shift patterns or increased working hours. And let’s not forget the emotional impact that coronavirus has had on everyone at some level or another.
Amidst all the changes, it’s easy to forget how much our dogs depend upon our daily routine and lifestyle. They know when we are going to work, when we are taking the kids to school and when it is the weekend – simply by watching our routines and behaviour. What we need to remember is that all the stress and worry we are experiencing due to theses unprecedented times is easily sensed by our dogs.
The close relationship we have with our pets often means they are very in tune with our moods and emotions. Have you seen a change in the behaviour of your pet?
Whether you are furloughed, self-isolating, working from home, home schooling the children, or working as a key worker, it’s highly likely that your dog or cat will be experiencing some changes in their day to day life as a result. Therefore, it is very important for the health and welfare of your pet that you try to keep as normal a routine for them as you can.
Please bear in mind that once the coronavirus lockdown measures are lifted, going back to our busy lifestyles could have a negative impact on how our dogs will cope when left on their own again. There is a valid and rising concern within the pet care industry, that the vast majority of dogs may show signs of separation anxiety when left alone after lockdown if we don’t put the correct behavioural measures into place now.
Here are three key steps I recommend you take to help reduce the chance of your dog developing separation anxiety when life goes back to normal:
- Establish a routine for your dog that is as similar to your normal working and home life as possible – with mealtimes, playtime, training sessions and the daily walk. Dogs, like us, need a predictable and stable routine to make them feel happy and stress free.
- Make sure your dog spends a set amount of the day alone. This is vitally important to maintain your dog’s ability to cope when normal life starts again. If you are working from home or home schooling, try and do this away from your dog. Can you put them behind a baby gate, or can you work in a different room?
- If your dog has started to show signs that they do not want to be separated from you, you need to encourage them to spend time on their own again. Start off with short sessions where your dog is left on their own with something to help them switch off and relax, such as a Kong with something tasty inside (freezing it will make it last longer), an activity ball with food inside or a chew they will enjoy.
Essentially, the key message for dog owners is to restore as normal a routine for their dog as possible, making sure that it includes their daily walk, a playtime session and some time on their own. If you are concerned about any changes you have seen in your dog’s behaviour, please contact your vet for further advice.
By Shelley Audis-Riddell, Oscar Pet Foods