Lorna Winter is a dog trainer and co-founder of the puppy training app ZigZag (ZigZag).
People who bought ‘pandemic puppies’ are now seeing signs of separation anxiety as more people return to working from the office full-time, an expert warns.
Lorna Winter, dog trainer and co-founder of puppy training app ZigZag, said owners are facing a double whammy of problems.
Those dogs will also be going through adolescence at this time and their anxiety will likely get worse, he said.
Winter said it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that anxiety-related behavior is problematic (nearly 20 percent of dog owners would consider giving up their animal because of it, Zig Zagaccording to research).
But in most cases, there are simple steps you can take to deal with an anxious dog, whatever the cause of his anxiety, Winter said.
If your dog has forgotten the commands he was trained to obey, this could be a warning sign of anxiety, Winter said.
Winter said: “When a dog is anxious, they can sometimes go into a state called ‘learned helplessness,’ which can appear as if they are distant or ignoring commands.
‘In cases of separation anxiety, your dog may have been so panicked when you left, that upon your return; They practically closed.’
Does your dog sometimes forget commands?
Complaining when leaving the room
Barking or whining when leaving the room could be a sign of anxiety, particularly separation anxiety, says Winter.
Winter said: ‘Does your puppy bark a lot when you leave the house? Or complain even if you leave the room?
‘These are all signs that your pup might have separation anxiety, a general term used to describe when a dog finds it difficult to be alone.
“This anxiety often arises when they are alone and fear they have been abandoned.”
Winter recommends approaching the door randomly throughout the day to get your dog used to the idea and then, for the next three days, opening and closing the door.
Winter says, “Then go outside, just for a few seconds, and leave the door unlocked; you don’t want your puppy to make any associations yet. Then start increasing the time.”
Make your exits and entrances as easy as possible – help your pup understand that this is part of the daily norm and build up slowly!’
Digging is a “displacement behavior” that offers dogs a sense of comfort if they’re feeling anxious, Winter says.
She says, “Consider taking the first step by eliminating any potential stressors that may be triggering your desire to dig.” They may be expressing their discomfort and expressing a desire for a change of scenery.’
He also notes that some breeds are more likely to dig when anxious or excited, including dachshunds, beagles, and most herding and working breeds.
Dachshunds love to dig along with other breeds, says Winter
She says you can channel a dog’s anxiety into play by giving him fun ways to dig, such as filling a child’s sandbox with dirt or dog-friendly sand and hiding toys in there to encourage him to dig.
She says: “You can also try cutting the sides of a large cardboard box and filling it with rolled packaging material, then scattering some treats to encourage them to dig and find them.” Voilà, you’ve made a foraging box or indoor digging pit.
“Also, make sure there are enough blankets on their bed so they can dig in and make a nest to snuggle in when they need to.”
Chewing on couches, shoes, and doors often triggers anxiety or boredom, Winter says.
She says: “This chewing habit arises from a reliable self-soothing instinct that makes them feel good, as chewing triggers the release of endorphins such as dopamine and serotonin in their brains.”
‘Consider offering your puppy a safe chew toy, something they can chew on and relieve some of the stress and anxiety they may feel. Like stress balls for humans, these toys are fantastic for decreasing pent-up anxious energy and will hopefully stop the destruction of the couch!’
Winter recommends keeping an eye on your dog via a webcam when you’re not home.
She said: “It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your dog via camera when you’re not at home.” Does he seem distressed during his destructive escapades or do you notice other signs of anxiety? In such cases, delving into a separation anxiety protocol can be beneficial in alleviating his distress when you are away.
‘However, if they seem to be having their own party while you’re away, increasing their daily physical and mental stimulation is a wise move!’
Go to the bathroom indoors
Most puppies have small bladders and limited control, so it’s natural for them to have “spontaneous potty breaks,” says Winter.
She said: “If your pup constantly uses indoor facilities when you are not around or at night, he is likely dealing with separation anxiety.”
‘Puppies thrive on routines and find comfort in the predictability of playtime, walks and meals.
“Setting a schedule can do wonders for both puppy separation anxiety and potty training.”