Separation Anxiety: Part 2
As we discussed last week, these days turned into weeks turned into months where our pups have us nearby has led dogs to develop unwanted habits and, in some cases, separation anxiety. Dogs who already suffer from separation anxiety are worsening which will prove to be a difficult transition as our lives slowly return to normalcy.
So now is the time to capitalize on making changes so we set them up for success. And it starts with you!
I received a wonderful email response last week that I wanted to share with our community. To give background, Wilbur is a two year old English Bulldog. From the first day he came home as a puppy, his parents have done an incredible job at teaching Wilbur to spend time alone; he learned that his crate is a den where good things happened -- like meals and treats and naps and TBM coming for walks -- and, over time, the crate transitioned to a blocked off area in the apartment / a playpen. Wilbur walked with us four days a week because, once a week, his mom worked from home. Thankfully she kept his schedule every time: he went out on walks around the same time he would with TBM, and he wasn't given added freedoms just because she was home. This allowed Wilbur to really thrive in his environment whether or not his parents were present. (On the weekends, all bets were off since they were home but they didn't necessarily change the rules as much as they catered to more time together.) He did so well with boundaries that when they would give him more freedoms, he didn't like it: he would tear up a non-dog item or chew on the rug. Wilbur was accustomed to his boundaries and he felt safest and most at ease when they were in place.
Nearly six weeks later, Wilbur and his parents have spent every day together. The bond is real, and the time they have with their dog is deeply cherished. Wilbur is thriving and his parents can see that he's eager to get back with his friends again. The larger concern for his mom is how she will cope leaving him behind when she returns to work. Having the option to hold your dog in the middle of the work day is a dream and all that will disappear when we return to our own routines.
"Wilbur has not suffered from major separation anxiety in the past -- he loves his TBM walkers and pack mates so much. I'm sad by how much he misses being with his canine buddies right now, which I see in his eyes every time we pass another dog on the street. He also misses people coming to the door with deliveries and packages. When the phone rings to let us know something is downstairs for us to collect, he will sit guard at the door for nearly an hour, patiently waiting for the person to arrive so that he can jump and slobber all over them.
I think NY PAUSE can be challenging for more extroverted dogs like Wilbur who miss the daily stimulation that his two-person family can't provide. I also know the transition back to that loved life will be hard on him. He'll have to go back into his playpen so he can't chew up the rug and spend hours snoring alone instead of alongside one of us. I think he'll manage with support from Kara, Jakki, and the whole TBM crew, as I know his happiness will be top of mind for them. And this transition will be hard on me as well! Taking a break from work to walk him in the middle of the day is such a treat, as are quick snuggles whenever I want them. There's just a joy and simplicity in being in his presence all day long. So, I guess I'm left thinking now: who is going to have more separation anxiety when life returns to some sense of normalcy -- Wilbur or me?"
I am sure many of us are facing that same question. I relish in the extra time spent with Lucca. She's a blind, senior dog -- not knowing how much time is left makes me want to be near her even more. Getting those extra walks in with Chewy is the highlight of our day -- she's a natural adventure dog so to give her those moments as a family will be hard to give up. There were more testimonials on how people are making slight changes so that both human and k9 prepare for their time apart in the future. Mowgli's parents are giving her solid exercise in the mornings so they can work during the day while Mowgli rests in another room. This certainly will make it easier on her mom and dad when they have to go back to work since they aren't spending every waking minute side-by-side with Mowgli. Mowgli looks forward to their morning romp on the beach (at the same time we would walk Mowgli in the City) and she knows that the evening stroll means work is over and the rest of the night is designated for play and cuddles. Wyatt was rescued as puppy and did not like being away from his parents. This made it hard for them to leave him, as well, but they found that the more consistent they were about his crate time and keeping to their schedules, the quicker he learned that being "separated" from them was never permanent and he settled into the routine of time away from them. In doing so, it also allowed his parents to feel more at ease when they left for work or enjoyed a date night out of the apartment. Both k9 and parent thrive when there are expectations, routines, and boundaries.
It is my hope that today's video blog will provide reassurance to our k9 community. The changes we make today will benefit our dogs tomorrow. As we implement the guidelines laid out last week, I hope today's blog addressed the concern we, as humans, are having when it comes time for us to leave our best friends at home. We've likely begun to dread the idea of hopping on the subway or into our cars, grinding away at work, and missing our own Wilburs as they patiently await our return home. It is in the little decisions we make for our dogs that we, too, will feel a sense of peace.
Thank you to Wilby's mom for sharing your story with TBM. Thank you for being such a lovely human to your k9 son, and for being a part of a larger story: to advocate for all dogs.
We've Got This,