With many people returning to the workplace after the latest government updates, this means that we will be spending more time away from home – and less time with our furry friends.
According to PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing, this can have a huge impact on our pets. “The pandemic has turned our normal routines upside down, and our pets are affected just as much as we are. According to our PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report 2021, nearly one in five (18%) dogs in the UK acquired since March 2020 have shown signs of distress when left alone. For dogs acquired before March 2020 the figure is 5%. Signs of separation anxiety, or separation-related behavior (SRB) can vary from excessive whining and barking, destroying things, loss of toilet training, trying to escape, depression and inactivity.”
Though we can’t be with our pets 24/7, there are plenty of things we can do to help them get used to being without their owner. Preparation is key, so that they feel comfortable when left alone, as they could have become used to having constant company.
See below for Nina’s top five tips:
- Keep them company
“Many of us have responsibilities away from home that we just can’t avoid. Make sure pets aren’t left alone too long by popping home on your lunchbreak or getting a neighbour to check in once or twice a day. If that’s not possible, use professional services like pet sitters and doggy day care.
- Create a safe space
“Give your pet a space in the home they can call their own, where they know they will be safe while you’re away. Make this area free from noise, comfortable and relaxing with toys and chew items to help to create a safe haven for them. By doing so, we provide a place to escape anything that might be scary.
- Ease into new routines
“Just like we’ve had to get back into the swing of normality again, it really helps our pets if we can ease them into new routines. Use the same word as a cue such as “leaving” and something visual like placing a certain object in the same place so your dog understand this is when they will be left alone. When getting your pets used to being left, leave them alone for short periods of time, gradually increasing the length of time every time after that when they are comfortable. This way, they’ll soon become used to you leaving and coming back and won’t be anxious about not knowing when they are going to be left.
“One of the simplest actions we can take to prevent our pets from getting bored is giving them something to do. Feeder toys, stuffed with pet appropriate paste and then frozen, are excellent for keeping their brains active for long periods of time – and may remove the temptation to destroy household items too!
- Set a calming atmosphere
“There are a number of ways you can form a tranquil environment for your pet. We recommend using special items like plug-in diffusers and collars that release natural soothing pheromones or herbal remedies, creating a calming atmosphere while you’re away. Think of this as turning your home into a furry friend spa!”
For more information and tips on helping pets as lockdown eases, visit www.pdsa.org.uk/PreventingSeparationAnxiety
PDSA is the vet charity for pets in need, preventing unnecessary suffering through treatment and education. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps PDSA reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. To support the charity’s vital work, visit pdsa.org.uk