© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

Reduce separation anxiety in your dog before their lockdown holiday ends

James Fleury
Emma Dangerfield Dog
Missing my friends   Emma Dangerfield

A Canterbury canine behaviourist has given Metronews some tips to keep your four-legged friend happy when returning to a busy schedule after lockdown.

Canine behaviourist, Julie Donovan, said because dogs were creatures of habit, a changed routine could affect some animals' co-dependent relationships with their owners negatively. 

"If there is a co-dependent relationship going on between an owner and their dog, then when the routine changes and their owner is away from home, this can cause separation anxiety in their dog."

Donovan said classic signs your dog is displaying separation anxiety included vocalising or howling, pacing, being unsettled, being destructive, trying to escape the property, showing excessive panting and/or toileting inside. 

Donovan said there were benefits for both humans and their pets when they were around each other. 

"Petting a dog reduces blood pressure and releases feel-good hormones in people and the petting calms and relaxes a dog as well."

For owners to minimise separation anxiety, they should slightly distance themselves from their dogs prior to lockdown ending.

Ways to minimise separation anxiety included putting the dog outside or in a kennel for increasing periods of time, and going for a walk without the dog.

Donovan said these tips would help people teach their pets how to be confident and calm enough to be at home by themselves until their owners returned. 

Nelson SPCA Manager, Nicola Blasdale, said while most adult dogs would enjoy lockdown because of the increased attention from family, plentiful playtime and more time for walks, it would be frustrating for some social dogs. 

While lockdown could be upsetting for them while they could not play with other dogs, there were ways to help combat their distress. 

"For a short period, this can be replaced by more games with the family, like ball games, frisbee, treasure hunts, tug, etc or maybe teaching some agility in the garden or teaching tricks to impress the neighbours."

For more information on canine classes and advice on your dog's behaviour, check out https://www.juliedonovan.co.nz/