How To Manage Your Pet's Separation Anxiety and Behavioral Issues: The After Effects of COVID-19
2020 has been the year of spending time with our pets. But, when life returns to normal, your pet may experience separation anxiety and behavioral issues. Here are tips on how to mitigate these problems and help your veterinarian can offer.
The world has faced unprecedented circumstances in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And, while we went into lockdown and quarantine - our time at home increased - leading to the need for more connection and companionship than ever.
Individuals who already owned pets, had more time to spend with their furry friend. While others looked into adopting or buying a dog or cat to bring them the company and emotional support they needed. In all, our pets have been a true source of light, comfort and stability through the ups and downs of this year.
Although spending more time with your pets is incredibly beneficial, for both your mental health and their overall well being, the world isn’t going to stay home forever. Slowly, we are returning back to work and our routines, with the hope of 2021 being that we can regain a sense of normalcy.
So, what happens to our pets when the time spent together drastically decreases? How will their understanding of your relationship be affected? And, how will their behaviors change based on this new and unexpected adjustment?
Not every pet is the same, but it’s safe to say that there are going to be some after effects of this pandemic for our pets. With separation anxiety and behavioral issues, it’s important that as pet owners we understand how we can effectively recognize these changes and find ways to mitigate them.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a condition that your pet experiences while you're away. In many cases it can be extremely harmful to your dog and cat, so it’s important to identify these behaviors and find ways to calm your pet.
Here are some signs of separation anxiety:
- Howling, crying or barking when you’re gone
- Feelings of nervousness or panic
- Having accidents in the house
- Destructive behavior such as chewing
So, now that you know what separation anxiety is - let’s talk about some tips for helping your pet adapt to a new routine in a post pandemic world.
5 Tips For Mitigating Your Pet’s Separation Anxiety & Behavioral Issues
Tip #1: Slowly Introduce Separation Into Their Daily Schedule
If you’ve been able to work from home during this pandemic and have access to food delivery services, there’s a chance that the number of times you’ve left the house is very limited. Therefore, the fact that you have hardly left the house over the past year has made your pet believe that you’re going to be home 24/7 for the foreseeable future.
While humans can understand that this situation is temporary in many ways, our pets can’t see the difference. So, this period of being “at home” all the time, starts to make your pet believe that this is their new reality.
To make sure that you don’t give your pet emotional whiplash, you need to create a plan of how to introduce separation back into their life. Or, if it’s a new pet - how to train them to understand that there are times where you will be gone and they will have to stay home alone.
The best way to do this is to slowly introduce separation into their daily schedule.
Depending on your level of comfortability, you should start with spending anywhere from 5 minutes up to an hour outside of the house per day. Go to the grocery store, take a drive, go for a walk, visit a friend or family member, exercise outside if the weather permits. Obviously everyone’s situation is different, but the general idea is to try and set time to leave your pet at home by themselves.
At first, this may cause some issues, so be ready for behavioral swings that may follow such as whining, chewing or making a mess inside the house. But, over time - your pet will adjust and get used to you being away from home.
Tip #2: Find Your Future Pet Sitter or Dog Walker & Introduce Them To Your Pet
Since most pet owners were home in 2020, their need for a pet sitter or dog walker diminished. Yet, if you plan on returning to your place of work full time in the near future, you most likely hire some kind of pet sitter or dog walker to take care of your pet during the day.
Even though you may not need their services right now, establishing a new relationship with them and your pet is key to reducing any issues in the future.
Pets are sensitive to meeting new people and it takes them time to find their groove when interacting with strangers.
If you wait until the last moment and suddenly add a new person to the mix, your pet is going to endure serious anxiety and worry that will lead to behavioral problems.
Therefore, start interviewing and vetting help as soon as possible. And, once you’ve selected a good candidate, slowly introduce them to your pet to establish this relationship. The same idea applies if you aren’t going to hire a professional, but may have a friend, neighbor or family member help out with your pet.
In short, take the time now to get your pet used to the idea of another person taking them on walks, feeding them or simply staying at home with them when you’re out of the house.
Tip #3: Establish a Recognizable Phrase To Signal To Your Dog That You’ll Be Back
In addition to practicing leaving your pet alone, you’ll want to create a phrase that they can identify and signals you are leaving and will be back.
By doing so, you’re teaching your dog a command of sorts that is directly tied to their behavior. For example, when you say “sit”, your pet knows that they should sit down. So, let’s take this concept and apply it to when you’re leaving the house.
Create a phrase that is simple that you can remember to say each time you leave. Such as:
“See you later.”
“Be back soon.”
“Be a good boy/girl”
“See you in a bit.”
Once you’ve said this phrase enough and coupled it with the action of leaving, your pet will start to recognize this pattern. And, by establishing this, there will be less anticipation or wondering which leads to anxiety. Instead, you’re giving your pet a strong sense of understanding that you are leaving for now and will be back later.
Tip #4: Don’t Make a Big Deal Out of Arrivals & Departures
While having a phrase to signal your exit is important, you shouldn’t focus too much on your arrivals and departures from your home. In short, don’t make a big deal about leaving your pet alone.
Think about it. The more you hype up your leaving or when you arrive back home, the more unrest you are causing for your pet. You don’t want them to be overly excited or on the flip side, overly upset or nervous.
Instead, you want your pet’s emotional level to remain as level as possible. Feelings are good, but too much of the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum can cause your pet to feel unbalanced, which will lead to anxiety, stress and behavioral issues.
Tip #5: Create a Comfortable Environment For Your Pet
The last tip to mitigate separation anxiety for your pet is to create a comfortable environment for them while you’re away.
It’s suggested that when you are gone, you shouldn’t crate your pet in an attempt to keep them in one specific spot in your house. Crates can cause your pet to panic, howl or even have an accident due to feelings of confinement.
If your pet is still young and learning, find a place in your home that you can mark off as their designated area. This way they still have boundaries, but more space and area to roam. Fill this space with objects to keep them busy such as chew toys.
Pet Insurance Coverage For These Issues
Now that you know some tips for helping your pet with their separation anxiety and behavioral issues, let’s dive into the ways a professional can help your pet, if you’re having trouble handling this on your own.
There are ways for a veterinarian to help your pet stay calm and eliminate feelings of separation anxiety.
Not all pet insurance providers cover behavioral issues, but there are a few that will cover consultations with a veterinarian to diagnose separation anxiety. Spot Insurance is an example of a provider that will cover the cost of any therapies or medications used to help your pet with their separation issues. They do not cover behavioral training.
In addition to the therapies and medications, many insurance providers will cover accidents and illnesses that arise as a result of separation anxiety. Providers understand the separation anxiety is not a simple behavioral problem, but a form of sickness that can and will get worse if not properly addressed and treated.
If your pet is currently uninsured, now is the best time to get them set up with a solid pet insurance policy. At Fursure, we are pet insurance gurus who can help you find the best policy for your pet and budget.
Our process is simple:
- Once you sign up, we set up a free consultation call to learn more about your pet and their needs.
- Then, we do all the heavy lifting for you by researching and creating a detailed comparison chart of providers for you to choose from.
- You pick your provider, buy your policy and your pet is insured!
Made for pet parents by pet parents, we want to help you keep your pet safe, healthy and happy. And, give you the peace of mind knowing that they are protected no matter what may happen.
To get started and schedule your consultation call, sign up here.
We hope you found these tips on how to manage and mitigate separation anxiety and behavioral issues with your pet to be helpful. With these best practices and the insight of your veterinarian, your pet will slowly be able to adjust into their new schedule and routine in the post COVID-19 world.