Helping Dogs Cope After Quarantine
Quarantine periods, self-isolation, and lockdowns can be very stressful on families, but there are some family members who love everyone being together, all day long, all the time – the family dogs. Whether you have one dog or a pack of four-legged family members, readjusting after quarantine can be a challenge, but there are easy ways pet owners can help their dogs cope.
Why Dogs Love Quarantine
Dogs are pack animals, well-adapted to group dynamics. They’re naturally social, and humans are their pack. When their pack is home all day, the dog feels more secure in its social structure and enjoys much more bonding and attention with more frequent games, walks, grooming sessions, and more.
When quarantine ends, however, dogs will suddenly be left alone again during the work day. That abrupt change can create anxiety and depression, and dogs may become unnerved. This can lead to a variety of undesirable behaviors, such as howling or barking, potty accidents, or destructiveness. Helping dogs cope with the return to typical work days and their own alone time can minimize these behaviors and help the dog stay calm and confident even when its pack isn’t around as much.
How to Help Dogs Cope When Quarantine Ends
The key to helping dogs cope after quarantine is to get them used to previous patterns of work hours, alone time, and the comings and goings of their family pack. To do this, dog owners should…
- Start Early and Slow If possible, give dogs a week or two to slowly get used to being alone again. Start by leaving the dog home alone for short periods during regular working hours, gradually lengthening their time alone to several hours if possible. Another alternative is to work in a home office or separate room, with the door closed and the dog in another part of the house, so they get used to the work routine again.
- Retrain Dogs for Alone Time If the dog is crate trained, practice retraining techniques to get them used to that safe, alone space again. Also practice other useful commands, such as staying quiet or stopping barking and staying down and calm when greeting family members who return home. After extended at-home quarantines, dogs may have forgotten these commands, and retraining will refresh their behavior and reinforce the pack hierarchy.
- Keep At-Home Routines as Normal as Possible Keep morning and evening routines as close to normal for workdays as possible. This includes when the dog may be fed, walked, or let outdoors. Reestablishing these routines will help ease the dog back into workday procedures. Furthermore, morning attention and exercise will help work off nervous energy to keep the dog calm when it is left alone again.
- Stay Calm When Coming and Going Making a big production out of leaving and returning home will excite the dog and could encourage poor behavior. Instead, stay calm and gentle when coming and going to avoid overstimulation. Avoid using an excited voice or exaggerated gestures when saying goodbye or greeting the dog, and instead reward calm, well-trained behavior.
- Provide Comfort Adding some comfort for your dog when you can’t be home anymore can help keep the animal calm and reassured. This can be done in several ways, such as leaving a shirt or pillow with your smell for them to cuddle with, or turning on a radio or television to provide ambient noise in a suddenly quiet home.
- Provide Distraction Giving your dog something to distract itself from loneliness can help ease any anxiety or depression the animal may feel. Puzzle treat toys or a new chew toy can be a great choice. Leaving some outdoor visibility available – such as through a patio door – can also give your dog more entertainment throughout the day when its pack isn’t around.
- Consider Doggy Day Care A doggy day care facility can be a stimulating option to care for your dog when you can’t be home. These facilities bring a number of dogs together for play time and companionship, and provide exercise and socialization at the same time. Check local requirements, and be sure your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date before enrolling them.
- Consult Your Veterinarian If your dog has extreme reactions to isolation and has trouble adapting to the end of quarantine, consult your veterinarian for guidance. Medication or gentle sedatives can help calm canine anxiety and depression, but this should be done only under a veterinarian’s expert care and only as a last resort to keep your pet healthy and comfortable.
Above all, dog owners must be patient with their pets. Readjusting after quarantine can be challenging for everyone, dogs and dog owners alike, and taking steps to ease into a new normal can help everyone in the family pack stay comfortable, at ease, and happy with the changing situation.