COVID-19 has impacted us in so many ways in terms of our health, economy, and way of life. This has caused anxiety and stress in many of us, and, as a result, these symptoms may have impacted our dogs’ behavior. We may be on track to see more behavioral and separational issues in our dogs as we move through this pandemic. Working to understand and recognize potential issues now will help reduce them.
I recently took part in a Fear-Free Pet Symposium, hosted by the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The lead presenter was Dr. Marty Becker, who is often referred to as America’s Veterinarian. I want to share what was discussed about how our relationship to dogs has evolved.
At the very beginning of time, dogs who descended from wolves were referred to only as animals. At some point in time, we domesticated those animals and they became our pets. From pets they became our family, and then we extended that emotional bond so that now some of us even refer to our dogs as our child/children. We’ve learned to become dependent on them as a way as to reduce our own anxiety and stress.
Just think about it: Everything in our dogs’ lives has changed just as in ours. In finding a way for us to deal with our anxiety and stress, we could be causing anxiety – defined as a reaction to a potential or imagined threat – or fear, an emotion that leads to avoidance. After all, our pets form an emotional bond with us. We impact the health and well-being of each other based on what each of us is experiencing. We’re that closely bonded.
How can I tell if my dog(s) have anxiety or are stressed? The symptoms can include: excessive panting, pacing, whining, trembling, trying to hide.
So, what’s the issue? If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, they may also be experiencing increased heart, respiratory, and blood pressure rates, too.
How do I treat it?
- If you have a small dog that sits on your lap, have them sit by your side instead. This will instill confidence without obsession.
- Try increasing their enrichment through sight, smell, and touch. On walks, let them stop anywhere they want and sniff.
- Create a simple obstacle course in the house by using something like a broom handle they have to climb over or boots lined up on the floor so that your dog has to weave in between each boot to get a treat. These last two bullets engage your dogs’ senses, thereby reducing anxiety and stress.
These are just a few simple examples that may help. There are many more, but don’t forget to speak with your veterinarian. They know your dog’s history and have the same goal in mind as you: to have a happy, healthy dog that lives a long full life.
With this pandemic, we all need tools with which to deal with life and its stress. Our dogs are no different.
Jill Page is a Hull resident and the owner of Hull-based Tiny-Paws Dog Walking and Pet Sitting. Visit www.tiny-paws.com for more information.