How separation anxiety affects your dog and how to avoid it
Last Friday I had what could only be described as an unremarkable day.
Like a lot of people at the moment, there isn’t much going on that marks the days as anything other. Except apart from those odd days when you become a published author!
So back to Friday. I am struggling with what I was actually doing. Possibly my cat first aid course.
James was decorating. It was hot and we had planned to have a BBQ but in the end the clean up of the said decorating took longer than expected.
Yes it’s all coming back to me now.
We had pizza instead for dinner and we watched House as we wanted to get season 5 finished. No other telly had been watched that day. I don’t even think we had the radio on.
Why exactly am I telling you about Friday? Well it’s to show that it was a very average day. But it was far from an average night.
No, not like that. Minds out of the gutter please!
I had a nightmare. Yes, at the grand old age of almost 46, I had a full on, nightmare.
I woke up scared out of my brain. My heart was thumping, I felt panicked. It was horrible.
James got woken up because I needed to try and calm myself. Because even though I was awake I could still feel the nightmare. And the thing was I woke myself up from my nightmare to escape it, but I was still very much trapped by it.
The time was 1.30am.
Once I got over the initial fright. I tried to go back to sleep. Except I was too scared. I was too scared to sleep at almost 46.
So, I went downstairs and made some tea and toast and popped the telly on. I needed to forget about my nightmare. I watched a couple of episodes of New Amsterdam (I really do like medical dramas!) and then decided it was time to sleep again.
By then it was 6am. And I was still petrified to sleep.
But I fell asleep for about an hour and a half. And when I woke up all I could think about was that nightmare.
In fact, it makes me uncomfortable writing about it now 5 days on. And yes, I’ve had more sleepless nights around it.
My nightmare, my reaction and my thoughts after it are actually remarkably similar to a dog who is suffering separation anxiety.
Imagine you are a dog who has had mum and dad always at home with them.
Then one day mum and dad say goodbye and tell you to be a good boy and then they close a door. Hang on you can’t find them. You look for them. You call for them.
You realise mum and dad have gone out without you. You are panicking. If you are shut in a room you may start trying to escape (destruction.) Or calling (barking) for help.
Hours later mum and dad are back. You stick to them like glue. Then the next day it happens again. That very thing that made you petrified has come round again.
This time it’s worse because you know what had happened the day before and you are already feeling anxious about it. You are even more distraught than the day before.
And so it gets repeated and the anxiety in your dog grows till it becomes such a problem that you have to find a way to not leave your dog alone.
That’s not as easy as it sounds because we have to work, we have to shop, we have relatives to care for, kids to pick up from school. But those 5 minutes that you just pop out to get a loaf can become so detrimental to your dog’s well being.
The thing is we have completely screwed up our dog’s routine by being at home because of the lockdown. Of course, we can’t help it, we are doing it for the greater good after all.
We shouldn’t expect our dogs to just bounce back into that old routine either. It takes us as humans between 21/28 days to establish a new routine/habit. 21 days of going to the gym, 21 days of not smoking, 21 days of drinking 2lt of water a day till it becomes the “normal.” Till we do it without thinking.
The same thing applies to your dog for a new routine, although timings may be a bit different.
Well how are we going to solve the problem of our dogs having us around 24/7 to suddenly gone for hours?
How about watching the replay of the webinar I did back in May? In it I give your tips that you can put in place now to ensure your dog does not get distressed when things go back to normal.
It’s completely free so you have nothing to lose but everything to gain for ensuring your dog is calm when you do finally have to leave them for a period of time. Just click here to get the details to join.
Sally Cousins is a self confessed mad dog lady!
After being mum to several rescue dogs she decided to turn her passion in to her career and set up her own dog walking business back in 2015.
Sally not only runs her business, she is the author of “The Lockdown Dog” book, she also writes for her own blog and also does guest blogs for other dog businesses. You can also find Sally chatting as a guest on dog related podcasts.