The last few months have brought a dramatic change to the way we live our daily lives.
Our schedules have changed, our communities have shifted around, and in a lot of ways, it feels like we’ve stepped into some kind of twilight zone, alternate reality with gloves and masks to match. This change of pace has not only affected us, but our pets as well!
It got me thinking the other day… “When is the last time I spent this much time with my dogs?”
Honestly, I don’t think we have ever spent this much consistent, uninterrupted time together before. For some pets this was probably the best thing they could have asked for, others I’m sure like things the way they were.
I know Mr. Bigglesworth… change is hard and people are indeed, THE WORST.
Now, with the prospect of returning to work, we face yet another series of changes. We may not be going back to ‘normal’ anytime soon, but for many of us, the full day binge sessions of Tiger King and hours of facebook scrolling may be over.
But, how do our pets feel about this?
Before I tell you all the bad things that could happen when we leave our pets on their own again, I want to mention some ways that they may actually benefit from having some time away from us.
For many, the change in daily routine brought about by ‘The Great Stay-In’, may have directly affected our pets sleep schedule.
Unlike humans, most dogs require between 12 and 14 hours of sleep a day for healthy functioning. They’re pretty good at sleeping in multiple phases and taking nap breaks throughout the day when necessary.
According to Dr. Karen Becker,
“The average family dog in the U.S. spends about half his time napping, another 30% lounging around but awake, and the remaining 20% being active.”
Suddenly we’re home all the time and bored to death without our usual set of tasks and responsibilities. It’s possible that we were unintentionally disrupting some very important nap time.
That ‘20% active time’ that Dr. Becker talks about may have been bumped up to 30% or even 40% depending on how desperate you were for something to do while trapped at home.
Personally, anytime I was feeling cooped up inside or missed running around town with my friends, I grabbed the leash and put on my sneakers.
We definitely got our 10,000 steps a day.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
According to animal behaviorists, one of the most effective ways to keep our pets happy and healthy is with a consistent approach to their daily routine.
If you were to list your dog’s “responsibilities” what would it include?
- More naps
All kidding aside, these ‘events’ are the building blocks of our pet’s subconscious behavioral patterns.
When all this mess started, our daily routines shifted significantly, with little warning. That abrupt change in routine is enough to really throw our pets off, regardless of how they feel about your presence in the home.
In a statement to Insider magazine, veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Sueda says, “Dogs thrive on consistency and predictability, as we all do, so any time there’s an abrupt change, it can cause stress.”
The same goes for cats! Albeit, many of our feline friends seem to have a different attitude about us being all up in their space.
On a good day, it seems like most cats are just tolerating our existence. Can you imagine their horror at realizing we would be around every day all day? Their normal patterns of sleep, feeding and social interaction were changed just as much as anyone living in these chaotic times.
One of my favorite things to come out of the quarantine culture is the memes comparing cat and dog reactions to us being home more often.
CHANGE IS STRESSFUL
We can all agree that this year’s events have taken us way out of our comfort zone. That being said, we’ve been at this for a while now. The ‘new normal’ that I resisted in the beginning is starting to settle in and feel predictable, almost safe, even if it is boring.
Our animals undoubtedly faced some challenges because of the shift, but they too are getting used to the way things are. For the most part the effects of quarantine were pretty positive for our pets. They got more discretionary snacks, lots of love and in many cases we deepened our connections to our pets.
Now, as we gear up and return to some of our regular responsibilities, it’s possible our absence from the home may be even more stress inducing than our abrupt presence.
That’s why my main concern as I venture back out now, is dealing with separation anxiety. Our pets have gotten used to spending a lot of time with us, day and night where usually they may only expect to see us for part of the day and then in the evening and night.
Luckily this time, we have the ability to see what’s coming a little more clearly…
The best thing we can do for our pets is to make a plan that will reduce the chance of causing them any unnecessary stress. One thing we can learn from the experience of having to go inside so abruptly is that a gradual change would have been much less traumatic. For everyone.
With that knowledge, a good strategy is to work with incremental changes, rather than making the switch all at once and risking some serious separation anxiety.
In her book “Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs”, Malena DeMartini-Price, gives some great advice about easing your dogs into being comfortable with your absence. She says: “It’s a gradual process of using small absences that start to teach the dog that absences are safe.”
So, rather than disappearing for a week out of the blue. Start by keeping them in a separate space for a few hours during the day, or crate training them in a different room at night.
USING CBD FOR SEPARATION ANXIETY
Set the expectations
Once you’ve begun conditioning your pets to expect and tolerate absences, another tool you have at your disposal is full-spectrum hemp extract.
CBD for dogs is our best tool for keeping pets calm while we’re away.
When you give your dog or cat CBD like our Calm tincture, it will stay in their bodies from between 6-8 hours. In most cases, once you’ve found the right dose, they should feel calm and peaceful for at least the greater part of a typical workday.
We recommend giving them their dose about 30 minutes before you leave so that you can see for sure that they have calmed down. This way even their initial reaction to realizing you are leaving will be less dramatic. Generally, the effects of an oral tincture take effect in 15-20 minutes.
Our pets have had a lot of opportunities for mental and physical stimulation over the past few months. We’ve been teaching them new tricks, taking them for lots of walks and making them our own personal emotional support animals . You may have been away from work, but they were working overtime!
In the absence of all this stimulation, it’s a good idea to think of ways to enrich your pet’s environment. This way their minds stay active, they are less prone to separation anxiety and also less likely to get into things that they shouldn’t.
HIDE AND SEEK
One of the things I love to do with our dogs is play hide-and-seek.
Here’s how it works…
I take a bag of our Freeze-Dried Salmon treats and hide them all over my apartment. When I get home, they are nowhere to be found and my dog has had a great time using their nose to search for snacks!
KEEP IN TOUCH, YA HEAR?
Another thing you can do is install a video monitor with a live feed that goes directly to your electronic devices. These monitors are a great way to see how your dog is doing while you are out of the house and some of them even have a speaker to talk to your dogs and the ability to dispense treats remotely.
Don’t expect to be hanging out with your pets from afar exactly… you may be surprised to see how much of the day they spend napping without us there to bug them!
“Puppy Proof” your home, even if you have an adult dog! They’re going to be extra curious when you first leave them.
VENTURING BACK OUT
The reality is, eventually we are going to be back to a schedule that leaves our pets alone for longer than they are right now. The most important thing to remember is that it’s best to ease your pets into new situations, rather than changing their world all at once. Stress and anxiety are not only issues that affect mental health, there are many chronic diseases that arise as a result of chronic stress. Cats are especially prone to these sorts of idiopathic disorders.
For now, restrictions are lifting but it’s possible in the future we may have to head back inside again. If that happens, we will be ready for it and so will our pets.
By keeping their diet, exercise, environmental stimulation and sleep time consistent, we can keep them happier and healthier, even in abnormal conditions.
As a final thought, I wanted to encourage you to take the things you learned about your animals during this time to heart. We all got to spend a lot of extra time with our pets and most likely got to know them even better than before. Maybe you noticed your dog favors one leg when walking, or discovered a lump under their chin while giving them their afternoon cuddles or maybe you just noticed something new about their personality.
It’s been great to spend all this time together. That being said…. GET ME OUT OF HEEEEERE!
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Written by samprice at cbddoghealth.com