In a lockdown, our pets get used to the fact that we hardly leave them alone. No wonder: school, work, leisure time – so far, a lot has taken place at home. Now that the measures are relaxed, it can lead to separation stress in dogs and cats. It is therefore important to gradually get used to it.
How are our pets actually doing with the lockdown? Most experts agree on this question: animals that have previously had a good bond with their humans enjoy spending more time with them.
Corona measures have now been relaxed across Germany for weeks, everyday life is slowly returning to normal. And some people can go to work, university, kindergarten and the like again every day.
An unfamiliar situation for the four-legged friends – especially for puppies, kittens, and animals that only moved in with their families during the pandemic. They could quickly develop separation anxiety because they were rarely left at home alone during the lockdown.
Dogs, in Particular, Suffer From a Tendency to Separate
When the lockdown regulations were relaxed in Australia at the end of 2020, veterinarians reported an increased number of cases in which pets suffer from separation anxiety when their masters go back to the office. “That was foreseeable,” said veterinarian Richard Thomas from Cairns to “ABC News”. “Separation anxiety is a very common behavior problem.”
This is especially true for dogs. “Generally speaking, dogs are herd animals. They like to have their family around. If you are in constant contact with your family, it will hurt you if it suddenly stops. ”
On the other hand, cats seem to be able to cope better with the temporary separation, and they then show fewer behavioral problems than dogs. “Although many cats appreciate the attention and closeness of their family, most of them are independent and structure their day independently,” explains Sarah Ross, pet expert from “Vier Pfoten”.
That’s why it is easier for kitties to be alone again. Even so, cats can benefit from a little exercise, too.
Whether it’s a dog or a cat, these tips can help prepare pets for the time after lockdown:
Practice Solitude Step by Step
From one day to the next, leaving pets alone for hours after the lockdown is a bad idea. Instead, the four-legged friends should get used to it step by step. You should gradually increase the time you spend without your pet.
At the same time, experts advise gradually reducing the time you spend playing with your pet and paying attention to them. At least if you can’t do that to the same extent in the long term.
Create Spatial Separation Now
It can help to go to a different room than your pet and close the door to work. As a first step, you can also attach grilles to the doors. Once the dog and cat get used to it, you can close the door completely. This is how pets learn that they can no longer follow you wherever you go.
Set Up Places of Well-being for Pets
The animal welfare organization “Peta” advises that you should set up a place of retreat for your pet at an early stage so that your pet stays relaxed even in phases of being alone. Make your four-legged friend really comfortable and link the place directly with positive experiences by laying out toys and treats there.
In addition, relaxing music can help your dog or cat to really relax in the new oasis of well-being. Background music can also help against separation anxiety.
Do Not Really Leave the Dog Alone During Training
The animal welfare organization also advises that dogs only really be left alone if they can be alone. If you actually leave the house too early and overwhelm your pet with it, this could set your training success back by weeks.
Integrate Typical “Farewell Signals” in Everyday Life
The jingling of a bunch of keys, reaching for a laptop bag, or putting on work shoes – these are all signals for your four-legged friend that you will soon be leaving the field. He can therefore react to this with stress and fear.
By integrating these processes into everyday life again and again, even if you do not leave your pet, you remove the negative meaning from these situations. For example, you can take the bag to the toilet with you or insert the key to hang up the laundry.
Going for a walk, but also playing and cuddling together, are rituals that pets really enjoy. Maybe there were new rituals with your pets during the lockdown. If possible, you should keep this up. This is how you signal to your four-legged friend: Not that much will change!
If, for example, you have to change the times of certain rituals – such as feeding or going for a walk – a gradual transition helps here too. “This way you can prevent your dog from becoming frustrated and anxious if his daily routine no longer corresponds to his experience,” says the English animal welfare organization “RSPCA”.
Variety Against the Stress of Separation
Feeding toys – such as a sniff rug or Kong – can help keep your pet busy. That distracts, at least for a while, from your absence.
In general: To get pets used to the separation after the lockdown, consulting a veterinarian or dog trainer can also help. They can give individual tips for your respective situation.