The ultimate guide to separation anxiety and coronavirus

In this blog we will be busting myths about separation stress / anxiety and getting a happy calm dachshund even when your back at work!

I’m Katie Saywell owner and founder of The Dogs Code and we specialise in the training and coaching of dachshunds and their owners. We aim to build confidence in dogs and owners and in doing so create best friends through positive training.

What is separation anxiety

It is …

Side of a smooth black and tan dachshund deep in thought.
The Dogs code

The fear of being left alone

The fear of being in isolation

The fear of being abandoned

A panic disorder

An emotional disorder

We must remember the feelings are very real for our dogs!

The symptoms of separation are varied which we will go through some now

As an owner how do you know if you dog has separation anxiety

what should you be looking for? The classic signs are

you cant leave the room and cant leave the house, you may have stopped going to places because you are worried about the about the mayhem being caused with chewed door frames, skirting, anything else chewed, destroyed, trashed the house, pooed or weed in the area they have been left

They may have barked and whined whole time out

They are pacing which feels uncomfortable disturbing to watch

Your neighbours have complained about howling/ barking and noise

You may not have a clue any of this is happening

What you must remember is

Your dachshund has no control over how they feel and the signs of distress they display, they may be worsened by being in a closed crate.

It is normal for unhelpful friends and family – the ones that try to give you advice, the ones that don’t and have never owned a dog giving advice like let them cry it out – will make them worse ITS real for your dog, they will get into a state in your dogs brain – not rational thinking IT IS REAL.

There may be lots of little triggers that set your dog off when they know your going to leave – alarm clock, getting ready, picking keys up, putting coats and shoes on – there is no one size fits all for our dogs.

You may feel very alone as an owner – you are not alone there are hundreds of owners rest assured you are not alone with your battle with separation but it’s the ones that ask for help that get it. A recent study showed 1 in 4 dachshund owners feel like that have failed!!! Time to get help?

Its not your fault – its not a process caused by human intervention it is something that simply happens. Most experts and professionals don’t understand the cause -where separation comes from but what we do know is this:

Puppies of any age can have separation anxiety

Any dog of any age and any breed can suffer

Experienced owners and multiple dog house holds can have dogs with separation problems

May be a single dog

From a litter only 1 may have separation issues

New dogs and the one introduced may have separation

The exact cause is not known

What is known…

Separation is more likely in male dogs, and to give you some understanding it is a little like mental health in humans 1 in 4 humans have mental health problems at some point during their life. Humans have mental and physical health as do our dachshunds and if we as owners are not looking at our dachshunds well-being that may be the place to start. Its about what works for them.

Humans can suffer from anxiety too

What you should do if you think your dachshund has separation stress / anxiety…

Seek professional help, book a vet consultation and have a chat about symptoms to clarify and get a diagnosis then looking at medications. Separation anxiety can ONLY be diagnosed by a registered vet. On the subject of medications which are often frowned upon if they work in the short term to be able to get your dachshund to a level to be able to work with them then surely the worst thing you could do is not allow them access to that medication. There will always be a debate but if its going to help what is the problem.

Seek Behaviour expert, get an assessment to be worked along side and work through a process and plan of action most will work closely with vets and medication to help with behaviour changes.

There are always options or natural remedies again check with a vet if they are on medication as some can compliment but some can have the opposite effect.

All family in the house must be on board – Everyone needs to be consistent – this prevents confusion.

How to deal with neighbours – you may have received a note through the door, an ear bashing, or being contacted by your local council, or RSPCA. – just take it on the chin, explain that you weren’t aware (if that is the case) but do something that will help your dog, get that professional help and let your neighbours know let them be part of the training explain

1. It will be a period of time

2. You don’t know how long but they are in training if they want to know more tell them

3. If you get letters from the council or RSPCA reply and be honest with what is happening – we all know dogs bark particularly dachshunds! The officials are approachable.

4. Put yourself in your neighbours shoes not owning a dog and being that neighbour.

How can we help our dogs…

Most problems stem from diet or pain (need that vet check?)

Check your dachshunds diet is suitable – it may be aesthetically appealing to us but what is actually in that packet is it nutritionally valuable for your dachshund. What do they look like, are they the right weight, underweight, overweight – the amount of stress often causes a metabolic change. Have they got shiny coats and bright eyes or do they look sad and lethargic. Do they look and feel healthy. Have a think about swapping diets. Is the food full of preservatives and additives that you have no idea what they are then it maybe time to change.

What does their poo look like we spend a lot of time picking it up its should be dark brown, firm and not smelly unless you step in it!

Exercise

I often hear owners saying they take their dogs for an hour before they leave for work I will ask owners what their morning walk looks like and Im often told this

We exercise for an hour – off lead he runs around and plays with other dogs, hes super excited we then play tug or throw a ball and hes going crazy he starts barking at us and he loves it. I then ask so how do you calm him down from that before leaving them? The reply is usually what do you mean?

If your dachshund is that excitable and you then drop them off at home and leave for work they haven’t had time to calm down or get rid of that excitement

Exercise should be calm interactive walking – interacting with you and the ground not getting worked up they need to be brought down in the scale of excitement and focus on you. Sniffing walks go to the boring places around the streets not the green. Teach scent games, massage, lick mats brain games get them thinking licking and chewing helps to encourage calmness.

Natural remedies

Plug ins / collars – adaptil are a brand there are others they also have collars

Dog calming music

I get told these don’t work owners switch them on when they are about to leave their dogs in a frenzied state rather than a calm state and is paired with excied rather than calm

If you are going to use them then get them used to it, when you are there and they are calm so they can pair the smell/feel/sound with being calm not crazy.

The most important piece of advice is

Focus on them being calm being away from you while you are in the room and build it up slowly, being away from you can still be in the same room but teaching them to settle while you start to move away build this up in several steps to making a cup of tea out the room them drinking in another room.

What to do during the current times of covid 19 C19 coronavirus…

You are completely right to have concerns. What is the impact of being at home for some of our dogs?

Here is our best advice…

Staying at home 24/7 is highly likely to cause a problem and may set you back, but keep to a routine carry on doing so while you can.

Go and sit in your car outside in most youll still be able to access your wifi from inside so have a car office for a while.

Create space in a different room from you dogs if you can, rather than having them constantly sitting on your lap having cuddles – I know its tempting right?

Getting ready and leaving them while you go to the car or garden leaving them on their own again creating space between you when they are calm.

Don’t forget to give them plenty of interactive exercise before you leave them.

If they are suffering separation stress this is a good time to practice leaving them for short snappy periods of time and building them up before you go back to work.

For those of you who have dogs with separation you will most likely see an increase in them becoming distressed or a regression in the short term when returning to work, so plan now for their future get prepared with the trainer/behaviourist to help now most are using remote working video facilities. Other people you may need to arrange a local dog walker, dog sitters and friends and family to be visiting and sitting when you cant and Id get these contacted now.

In the long term if you have already followed a plan for separation then you can revisit this and reduce the anxieties much faster than before as your dachshund will be more accepting and will return to a happy ‘normal’ much faster.

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