If the current global pandemic has been good for anyone, it’s probably your dog. After all, thanks to lockdown policies across the country, never before have so many pets had so many owners close by to tend to their every need—all day long. But, if you’re lavishing your dog or cat with too much attention, you could be doing yourself (and your pet) some disservice down the road.
In fact, you could be setting the stage for some real separation anxiety issues in the future for when you actually have to return to work.
“It’s a real possibility, [especially] if your dog or cat has been prone to that before,” says Julia Albright, BS, MA, Associate Professor of Veterinary Behavior at University of Tennessee. Separation anxiety can manifest itself in ugly ways, she adds, including not just barking and grumpy behavior but also “destruction” and “eliminations in the house.”
We asked Albright what things you can do now to ensure that your pet doesn’t get separation anxiety later. Her advice (found at the 5:00 mark in the above video) is simple: Keep some space.
“Do not get lax on your independence exercises,” she tells Eat This, Not That!. “Don’t do everything with your pet. Go on a walk without your dog.”
Now, if you do leave your pet alone for stretches of time, remember that it’s important to “pair” their being alone with “something good.” So if you do leave your dog alone for a bit, be sure they have a handy food and a toy to keep them company.
And don’t forget that your pet has likely earned that food toy. Millions of pet owners will argue that pets have been among the quiet heroes of our current crisis. For countless dog and cat owners, having their furry friend nearby in quarantine has been a godsend, especially if the owner is living alone. (For proof, know that studies have routinely shown that pets come with some pretty amazing health benefits, including the fact that they’re living, breathing stress relievers, and they’re scientifically proven to help mitigate loneliness.)
So treat them well (without spoiling them too much!). And, to see some pets who are definitely not excited to be home, don’t miss these adorable photos of 35 Pets Who Seriously Hate Bath Time.