Why pets will suffer when lockdown is lifted – and how you can help them

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  • The coronavirus lockdown has been an unwelcome change for many of us, but there's one group who may well be delighting in the changes - our pet pooches.

    While normally we’d be in and out of the house, leaving our dogs with time to themselves at home, now, we’re likely with our pets 24/7.

    And while that close time spent bonding and spoiling our canine companions is precious to both us and them, some dog experts have warned that it could have some emotional consequences for our pups.

    Queen Elizabeth II’s former corgi trainer suggested that long periods of time spent with our dogs now may mean some serious separation anxiety when – eventually – things go back to normal.

    Speaking to The Times, animal psychologist Dr Roger Mugford, explained, “With such an overload of quality time with their families, dogs are building up a huge reservoir of over-dependency which could see them suffer when mums and dads suddenly return to work and the children go back to school.”

    lockdown, separation anxiety, dog

    Credit: Getty Images

    He suggested that, once the lockdown is lifted and we begin to return to some semblance of normal life, our dogs may exhibit some stressed behaviours, put simply, because they are adjusting to missing us.

    “Put a webcam on your dog and you’ll see howling and pacing and other distress signs.”

    And experts at Dog’s Trust agreed.

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    Rachel Casey, director of canine behaviour and research at the dog charity, said, “All this extra attention could potentially create a ticking time bomb of separation anxiety for our dogs.

    “If they expect us to be about all the time, it will be more difficult for them to cope once we go back to our normal lives and aren’t in the house 24/7.”

    It’s easy to imagine how stressful the change may be for our pooches – it’ll be strange for all of us when we head back out to work and our normal lives.

    But there are ways to lessen the strain for our dogs, and it’s all about re-introducing some aspects of their pre-quarantine life into their routine – before lockdown is lifted.

    dogs, lockdown, pet

    Credit: Getty Images

    READ MORE: How to stop your pet putting on weight – while keeping them inside

    How to tackle separation anxiety in your dog before lockdown is lifted

    Certified Animal Behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson, co-founder of ‘Mindful Living and Our Dogs’, who is working with Forthglade, said, “We’re all adjusting to a very new world right now. Yes, even your dog is adjusting. They’re adjusting to their humans suddenly being more accessible and present in the home.”

    But to avoid separation anxiety when restrictions are eased, she suggested spending some time away from them during the day starting now.

    Caroline explained, “While we’re lucky to get extra time with our dogs at the moment, we don’t want to end up with hyper-attachment issues once normality resumes.

    pets, lockdown

    Credit: Getty Images

    “Make sure you spend a little time away from your dog each day – whether that’s giving them a solo activity to do in the garden (such as food scatters) or leaving them in the lounge for a snooze while you are in another room.”

    Dr Roger Mugford suggests up to 30 minutes a day of separation, several times a day. This could be especially helpful for your pups if you are working from home, and your kids are being homeschooled.

    Caroline warned though, “If your dog seems to be getting more needy or they’re concerned about being left alone even for a few minutes, seek advice of a force-free behaviourist over the phone or online.”

    MORE: The dangers of chocolate to dogs – and what to do if they get their paws on it

    Dogs love routine too, with Caroline explaining, “Routines can offer a sense of security, particularly to anxious dogs.”

    For that reason , try and stick to theirs, even if it’s trickier nowadays. “Aim to include any cornerstones of your usual routines that you can – being predictable when it comes to mealtimes, exercise, and bedtimes,” Caroline said. “While exercise time is restricted, think creatively when it comes to any mental enrichment you can also offer your dog. It’s so important we consider our dogs’ welfare – and our own sanity! – during the coming months.”