When the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year, many New Zealanders opted to adopt a pet. Not only did this relieve pressure off of shelters, but it also helped many better ride the storm of isolation during lockdown. The tight bonds created between humans and their pets during this time is, however, meeting with a challenge post-pandemic, as many pets are experiencing separation anxiety because they’ve never before had to be away from their humans for an extended period of time.
Dogs are particularly vulnerable to such anxiety, and this stress can lead to problematic behaviours such as chewing up furniture, incessant barking, or even regressing in their house breaking. In order to help puppies suffering from separation anxiety, owners need to prepare their homes for their dogs’ success.
Specifically, owners should establish a safe space in the home – such as kennel or other designated area – where their puppies can go when they feel stressed. This space should be equipped with stimulating toys, food, and water. Where possible, puppies should also be able to easily access an outside area. If this is not possible, it may be good to hire a dog sitter who can give them some necessary outdoor time.
For puppies who display anxious behaviour in the form of indoor urination and/or defecation, it may be necessary to place puppy pads or a patch of artificial grass in a designated area inside the home until they have learnt to better manage separation, as this can prevent them from relieving themselves anywhere in the house. Artificial grass is particularly useful in this regard, as it is reusable and easy to clean.
With time, patience, dedication, and training, it is possible to help pandemic pets adjust to a new way of life where their humans aren’t always around.