New and changing routines got you feeling anxious? Spare a thought for your pets, too!By the ZamiPet Team in collaboration with Snooza
Just like us, dogs can experience stress and anxiety in handling life’s everyday events. With so much uncertainty in the current environment requiring us to constantly adapt to changing circumstances, it’s easy for our routines to suddenly alter, which can prove very unsettling for our much-loved companions. With some pet parents returning to the workplace either partially or full time, or suddenly finding ourselves having to head back into isolation, it’s important for all pet parents to consider the impact these constantly evolving circumstances have on our pets, too.
Here are 7 tips to help your dog adjust to new and changing routines
1. Create a safe space
Animal Behaviourist Laura V recommends you provide your dog with access to a safe place which is just for them. “This needs to be somewhere they choose to go to and rest. If they have access to this space, they are more likely to relax when you are not at their side.” This can include their crate, blankets, bed and toys and should be a space they can retreat to when they might be feeling, stressed, agitated or tired. We suggest pet parents add one of their old jumpers to your dog’s bed or crate. This will provide a familiar smell, which will be comforting for your dog if you’re absent.
To assist your pet in transitioning to the ‘new normal’, it’s worth investing in some high-quality comfort accessories, such as Snooza’s range of premium soothing and calming products. The Australian made Calming Cuddler bed features super-soft, plush, vegan faux-fur with soft raised walls and a deep sleeping area to provide the ultimate retreat for anxious pets. The Calming Blanket also uses the same calming, faux-fur plush for soothing your pet, giving them a cosy place to be no matter where you go, keeping your dog cuddled and comforted. You can use the blanket as a calming cover to drape over their bed, your bed or sofa, in the car, or any other place where your dog likes to rest.
2. Preparing your dog for spending time at home alone
With many of us having spent more time working from home during the pandemic, it’s important we now prepare our pets for changes to this routine. The process of gradually getting your dog used to your absence from the home is known as ‘desensitisation’. It’s a technique of slowly exposing your pet to a situation that would normally cause an adverse response – such as anxiety from being home alone – and gradually working up to the point where your pet becomes less reactive. As a starting point, it’s important to practice short times away from home and your pet. Experts say leaving your dog for half an hour at a time may even prove too distressing at first. Start with just a few seconds out the door and work your way up from there. Working in a different room from your pet can also be a good initial step, especially if your dog has become a friendly lap-companion during Zoom calls! You can also try extending your time apart by doing some errands out of the house for a little longer than usual and gradually increase the time spent away.
3. Affection is not a solution
Even when you’re home, it’s important to let your dog have their independence from you. We recommend you do not encourage your dog's clinginess. Whilst we may love their cuddles and company, allowing them to depend on it constantly is not fair on their mental health. Instead, Here is a strategy of three ‘C’ words to help your pet build confidence and reduce anxiety. Reward your dog only when they are calm, cooperating with you or controlling their impulses.
Similarly, when you arrive home, we recommend you allow your dog time to calm down before paying them attention. Responding to your pet whilst they’re in a hyperexcitable state will simply further encourage this behaviour.
4. Routine is key for calm
Dogs require predictability. As best you can, establish routine times for meals, exercise and bedtime, making this consistent with what will happen on the days you’ll be absent and spending time at home.
How you manage your departure from the home can also be a potential trigger for separation anxiety. Creating lots of excitement during farewells can be a sign you’re about to leave for the day. Laura V. at ZamiPet Pet recommends you make your departure both specific and predictable. "Dogs need to know what to expect in their day, especially if they are unsure how to control it. Keep it calm, positive and for very short stints to start with."
Keep both your departure and arrival as normal and low-key as possible. Stay calm when leaving the house and arriving home, as making a fuss can further exacerbate your dog’s anxiety. Another great tip is to be mindful of stimuli that may signal your departure. There will be triggers for your dog like the jingling of keys that alerts them you’re heading out. Leave your keys in a place that enables you to slip out quietly.
5. Physical exercise
Make time to fit in some gentle exercise with your dog before you commence work for the day, whether you’re working from home or if you’re heading into the workplace. The endorphins from exercise can help put your pet in a happier mental state and work off some excess energy that may impact their wellbeing, especially if they’re home alone. Striking the right balance is key here: avoid any activity that’s likely to get your pet too excited just as you’re departing the house or heading to your home desk.
6. Mental stimulation
Boredom can trigger anxiety in dogs, so you may find it helpful to provide them with some toys specially designed to help combat separation anxiety and keep them occupied while you’re working. This can include interactive toys or games, such as special food-dispensing toys which are excellent boredom-busters and also keep your pet occupied whilst you’re departing the home. A cheap and easy method is to fill a Kong toy with dry dog kibble mixed in with some peanut butter (not the diet variety). This method makes it difficult for your dog to get the food out and will keep them well occupied. Interactive feeding matts that can also be filled with ‘hidden’ kibble are great for intellectual stimulation and keeping your dog engaged. Another great tip is to hide some ZamiPet HappiTreatsTM in the garden for your dog to find while you’re away, which provides another perfect distraction!
7. Supplements may help
Zami Pet experts suggest making a daily supplement part of your dog’s routine. Compared to a decade ago, there is now plenty of research in canine wellbeing and how supplements can assist in the health and happiness of our dogs. ZamiPet's Relax & Calm supplement with Tryptophan, Valerian Root, Chamomile and L-Theanine helps to support a healthy nervous system in dogs which can help alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety.
If your dog’s behaviour is still providing cause for concern, a trip to the vet might be the best course of action. Your trusted vet can help identify the possible causes and triggers of your dog’s anxiety, rule-out any possible medical conditions, and formulate the best treatment plan. This may be a combination of behavioural training (including desensitising and counter conditioning), pre-emptive strategies, supplements, and for more serious cases, medication.
Written by our friends at ZamiPet
Disclaimer: This information is general advice only. Before starting any treatment or supplement with your pet, please consult your vet first for the best approach to getting your pet back to their best health.