Separation prevention during quarantine

Separation prevention during quarantine

Ensuring time alone

During quarantine, many dogs will spend little time alone and, while some may be used to this, for others it may be very different to their usual routine. Dogs thrive on predictions and sudden changes to routines can often cause some behavioural changes; this can be both good and bad. When the time comes for quarantine to end, many dogs will find themselves suddenly alone for many hours more than they have been used to during the last six weeks.

To prepare for the change, try to make sure your dog spends some part of every day alone. Create a designated time for them to be without a consistent amount of human contact: ideally this would be leaving them in their own space, such as their bed, crate or a safe space that is usually their own and which has pleasant associations.  It can be helpful to use dog gates to create barriers to make a safe space.

Passive calming activities

The stress of being left alone can be made worse by a lack of stimulation or a build-up of anxiety. Many dogs will find an outlet for that stress in behaviours such as barking, howling, pacing, panting and, in extreme cases, becoming destructive. Providing your dog with suitable activities when left alone can channel their energy in appropriate ways and stimulate natural behaviours which helps to release endorphins.

-          Sniffing: dogs are natural scavengers - help them utilise their nose with a snuffle mat, scatter feeding, hide and seek challenges

-          Licking/chewing: suitable chews, Kongs, Lickimats, interactive toys, frozen treats

-          Mental stimulation: puzzle feeders, egg carton feeders, homemade enrichment

-          Special items: toys or treats your dog loves and only gets when you are not going to be in the room.

These are great ways to build up independence, even in quarantine, as you can place the item on the floor, release your dog to it and let them have fun while you go away to do something else.  Always ensure your dog can utilise enrichment safely before leaving them alone with it.

Sleep

Most dogs sleep for an average of 12-14 hours per day.  Lack of sleep can drastically affect your dog’s behaviour. Whilst you are out and about most dogs use this time to their advantage and have a quick sleep. However, with someone at home all the time, they may find it difficult to relax or sleep.  Lack of sleep can cause dogs to be irritable, hyper, less focussed and overall more reactive to anything and everything so it is important to ensure that your dog has plenty of chances to snooze during the day.

Using the environment to your advantage

Whilst you are at home and unable to go out so much, there will be many things your dog has not seen or heard for a while and they may be surprised when these events or noises start occurring again. Dogs are able to pick up on many elements of human body language; your dog knows when you’re leaving them before you actually do. Think about your dog’s excitement before their tea time, - they are usually excited even before you move to get their food. It is the same when you are about to leave. Quarantine is the perfect time to build new associations to try to reduce these triggers for excitement:  pick up your car keys, put them back down again, walk to the front door, reach for the handle, turn around and come right back again. Reward your dog for not reacting by calmly giving them a treat (not a big fuss) and acting like nothing of any importance happened. Rather than build anxiety about being left alone, these sequences of events will start to have less of an effect.

Training games

Playing games with your dog can be a helpful tool to reduce their reliance on you when in the home. A great game to start with is hide and seek with your dog’s food or a favourite toy. This might be you hiding food around the house or in another room.  If your dog has never played this before or struggles to stay when you are not in the room, start by asking them to stay and then turning away from them. If your dog stays put, turn back around and reward them. Body posture and eye contact have a big influence on your dog.  The next time, try turning and taking one step away and, if they stay still, step back and reward them again. This will help your dog to learn that staying put whilst you walk away can be a great thing and may even mean rewards at the end of it.

Separation prevention during quarantine