2020 has been an odd year to say the least. Pandemic, political turmoil, weather phenomenon, racial unrest and economic distress have caused our world to be thrown upside down. Work schedules change, school schedules change, entertainment changes and we find ourselves at home more than we’d like. Our stress levels are at an all-time high and depression has taken hold in many. This is the time when we need our loved ones the most, but that is not feasible in current times. So, we turn to our “other” loved ones, the fuzzy kind, the four-legged kind, the ones with the wet noses. Our dogs become our heroes. They love us, they are there for us, they rely on us and we love them for it.
From our dog’s point of view, current times may not seem too ruff (sorry, couldn’t resist). It’s great that we are home from work and school. We are traveling less, we have more time to play, go for walks, visit the park, sleep in and have the space in our schedule to work on our bonding time. Dogs must think this is the best thing ever, and it may seem that way at a quick glance. Sure, some dogs might be exhausted by our constant company, or even stressed that the kids are home all the time, but something is lurking out there that could be problematic for your pup.
What happens next?
Vaccines are on their way. Sure, it will take time to get things back to “normal,” but it will happen, and we want it to happen. But do our dogs want it to happen? After all, things are pretty good for them right now. Dogs like routine. They like to be able to anticipate what’s going to happen next. They see you grab your blue shoes and that means you are going to take them to the park. They hear the forks tapping an empty plate and that means they get to lick it clean. Dogs love patterns. They have grown quite accustomed to the way things are now, but eventually it is going to change. How will they respond and react?
Let’s face it, they are not going to love the idea of not spending as much time together, fewer treats, less frequent park adventures – this could be a disaster for them. At least that’s how it might feel to them. Fear. Abandonment. Loneliness. These are the feelings our dogs could feel. We know we’ll just be “going back to work,” but they don’t, and no matter how hard we try to sit them down and rationally explain it to them, they just don’t understand.
All these negative feelings can lead to anxieties and worst of all, separation anxiety. The sudden change of going back to work and heading off to school means that they are left alone. Most dogs will be just fine; they may need a little time to readjust, but they will get the swing of things again. There are some pups, though, that will have a harder time, which could lead to behavioral problems. Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety can destroy furniture, scratch up doors, windows and blinds. They can chew shoes, or pillows. They can bark excessively or urinate and defecate inside. They can even become aggressive or cause harm to themselves. They’re not doing it out of spite, they are panicked, confused and downright scared.
How to Help
Some people will spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to train or medicate their dogs through this crisis. But a good trainer or a good vet will give you some basics first:
- You may need to recondition your dog to the “new” schedule/routine – ease into it if you can.
- Your dog may need more exercise (reducing stress).
- Your pup may need some extra socialization (friends help a lot).
Dogs, just like people get stressed out sometimes and the things that generally help us, help them. Be patient with them, give them the support that they give so readily to us. Maybe they need a dog walker to exercise them during the day or if they enjoy other dogs, take them to a dog daycare, where they can run and play and make new friends.
We all want things to get back to normal, but take the time to prepare and plan how it is going to affect everyone in the household. After all, we need to look out for them as much as they look out for us.