Pet-demic: How to deal with separation anxiety in pets as pandemic restrictions ease

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed pet owners a chance to be home much more with their pets and many used the time home as an opportunity to adopt an animal. But, as restrictions continue to ease and schools start to reopen, many will head back to work or the classroom which can trigger severe stress and separation anxiety in animals used to being with a human all day.

"Dogs don't know that we're in a pandemic," explained Shane Gentry, owner of Sally Said So Professional Dog Training in Raleigh. "And, we don't know that, inadvertently, we're creating a pet-demic."

A pet-demic, as Gentry explains, will be the mass amount of pets who will experience separation anxiety.


"If they're not contained. You're really setting yourself up for some potentially harmful behaviors from your dog by ingesting inappropriate things, chewing up inappropriate things. Not only can it be dangerous, but it can also be expensive," he added.

Gentry says pet owners can make a few adjustments now to begin training their dog to help avoid issues when they begin leaving the house more. First and foremost, he says giving your pets a little time throughout the day without you will help.

"It's purposeful randomness," Gentry explained. "Put them in the crate, out of the crate, six or eight times a day. And, it doesn't have to be a crate, it can be a gated off laundry room, just separate from it. Even if you are in a space where you don't have a lot of room to separate, simply cover the crate with a light sheet or blanket nothing real heavy, obviously, we want them to be safe in there and we don't want them to get hot or be struggling, but, visually cut off." he added.

Gentry says the separations don't have to be long periods of time, it simply begins to help to reinforce to the dog they are fine without you.

"We're creating the understanding that it's okay to be separate," Gentry said. "When you're home, they're never gonna be okay with you gone if they can't be okay with you in the next room. So, we've got to set them up for success by not letting them fail. And that really means purposeful randomness in the crate six to eight times a day at random."

Gentry says you should only release the dog from the separation area when they are calm, not crying or barking. He also says not to make a big deal of coming or going when you leave or arrive at home because those create cues to amp up anxiety in the animal.

Gentry will hold a free Quarantine and Separation Anxiety webinar on Monday, August 24 from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm.
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