At this writing, Santa Cruz County is slowing spreading its wings again. There’s traffic on Highway 1, there is more than 1 Starbucks open for mobile order pickup, and stores are starting to post large OPEN signs. As the restrictions of shelter in place lift and we start to venture out of our homes again, especially for longer periods of time and including returning to work, there may be one group of family members whose stress actually increases: our dogs.
Jokes about dogs hiding so they don’t have to go on yet another walk aside, most canine companions will have enjoyed the enhanced people time. Sudden withdrawal of our companionship has a huge potential to bring on separation anxiety, a heightened stress level that results in pacing, drooling, destruction, urinating and pooping in the house, distressed howling or barking, and self-trauma through licking incessantly or trying to break through a door or window.
Now is the time to begin to acclimate your dog to spending more time alone, rather than asking her to simply accept your extended absence in the weeks to come. There are multiple resources available and we are happy to help you develop a plan for your family pets – just give us a call. A few areas of focus as you begin:
- Work to promote independence. Just as we’d love to have our children play independently for part of a day, you want your dog to be comfortable if she can’t see or touch you constantly. Using her bed, crate or “blankie”, and interactive toys like Kongs, etc. introduce periods of time where she is physically and visually separated from you. We have lots of written resources on how to do this, and internet information abounds!
- “No More Drama”. This is one of the tenets of the canine formulation of ProzacR behavior modification plan. There’s nothing like the pure joy dogs exhibit when we come home to make us feel special. When we feed into that with our sweet-talking “Daddy’s home my little love bucket” and pair it with a baby voice “Mommy’ll be home soon, don’t be sad!!” when we leave, our dogs hear the tone of our voice and know something BIG is happening, which can introduce stress. Develop low key arrivals and departures to smooth out the emotional roller coaster of their days.
- If you already know your dog is vulnerable to anxiety, with or without you, and you anticipate spending significantly less time at home in the coming weeks, consider short-term anxiety aids like Zylkene and Adaptil. Zylkene is an evidence-based milk protein supplement that can be given during transitional periods to lower stress. It’ll take about 4-5 days to create an effect and can be continued for weeks while change is happening. Adaptil is a pheromone, a scent that creates a behavioral effect (think musk in perfume!). It’s a synthetic version of the scent that’s released around a dam’s milk glands when a puppy is nursing. It’s available in a collar that works for 30 days, a perfect time frame for this period of transition (and also in a spray or diffuser). Both products are available through our website’s on-line store without a prescription.
As always, the Chanticleer team is here to maximize your joy and quality of time with your dogs and minimize the challenges that come along with loving them. Please don’t hesitate to reach out by phone, email or in person. We’re also becoming fairly adept at telemedicine, if that works best for you!