Are you getting ready to go back to work? Going on a vacation? We are seeing what we are calling the Post-Pandemic Pup Syndrome ™ with our current clients and our new clients that you need to consider before you schedule your next trip or answer the call to go back to the office!
We are at about 15 months since this whole thing started. With the average life expectancy of a dog being 10-13 years, you have to consider that is the equivalent of 10-12 percent OF THEIR LIFE! Changes the way you look at the impact on them, doesn’t it? We have seen that the Post-Pandemic Pup Syndrome ™ has resulted in two significant behavioral changes in many dogs. They are exhibiting more outward signs of separation anxiety when away from home and familiar faces and they seem to have lost some socialization skills.
Increased Separation Anxiety
One thing we have seen is an increase in separation anxieties. Dogs who were used to, and very comfortable with their owners absence during the day are more stressed when their owners leave for extended periods of time. When we have investigated, we have discovered that during Covid many of these dogs were only left for 1-2 hours EVER due to lockdowns. Please be kind to your dog. Understand that any extended time away from your home will be a significant emotional and behavioral adjustment for them. Make a plan NOW to gradually start increasing the amount of time your pets spend by themselves at home. Remember their pre-Covid routine and move the needle a bit each week if you can. Max 2 hours alone during Covid? Next week increase that to 3 hours alone. The week after that to 4 hours. Re-acclimate them to their kennel or den area if it is needed. Invest in some busy toys like stuffed Kongs or other mentally stimulating toys. Go to our website at www.4leggedkids.com and download our Separation Anxiety Guide for some more tips to decrease anxieties when you are leaving home.
Lost Socialization Skills
Another issue that is just now becoming apparent with our travelers, especially our boarders, is the effects of a long-term lack of socialization with both people and pets. In some cases, dogs haven’t seen and socialized with ANY other dogs (besides passing on the street) for over a year! We have seen formerly well-socialized dogs be immediately defensive and become aggressive quickly when being presented in an open, neutral environment. The same goes for new people coming in their home. Give them a little break and slowly work them back into comfortable socializers if that was their pre-covid baseline.
Are you planning to have our team coming into your home when you travel, or do you plan to have them in a boarding environment around strange people and other dogs? Use friends and family to set up controlled environments with other well-socialized, calm dogs. Slowly introduce back into “doggo society”.
How to Re-socialize
- Start with a low-stress neutral meeting on a walk. Gradually decrease the distance between the dogs as long as they are exhibiting accepting body language. Here is a good real-life explanation of body language in dog interactions DOG BODY LANGUAGE . Use liberal amounts of high-value dog treats when the dogs are relaxed, asking them for tandem sits and downs if they have received previous training.
- Once you see them exhibiting calm interested or indifferent behavior consistently (and after a good walk to mentally stimulate and tire them), take them to a neutral open outdoor area if possible (like a secure fenced dog area with no other dogs, an empty fence tennis court, a fenced back yard that doesn’t belong to either dog). Walk them together around the yard watching for a repeat of the calm, interested or accepting body language (ears, tail, loosey-goosey soft bodies).
- When they are comfortable in the environment, discreetly disconnect their leashes making sure to keep your own body language neutral. Walk the yard with the other adult dog owner while watching your dog’s behavior. With the proper assessment of body language through the process they will hopefully be doing the zoomies together soon like no time has passed!
- Do be aware of any tension building and use the “splitting” technique if things become a bit heated. Splitting is when you use your own body to walk between the dogs, a form of “body blocking” while you each redirect your dog’s behavior. This will decrease the tension and allow you to redirect whenever needed.
- Rinse and repeat until you gradually reintroduce your dog to the joys of hanging with the other dogs!
With some advanced planning and scheduling starting now you can ensure that your travel or return to work will be as satisfying for your pets as it is for you!
For more information about our dog walking and pet sitting services and to download our Separation Anxiety Guide check out our WEBSITE.