After months of shutdown over Covid and “stay-at-home” orders, something unexpected is happening to our dogs. As restrictions loosen and dog owners begin to leave the house or try to board their dog for a much-needed weekend away or if they’re lucky, go back to work — their dogs fall apart! They bark, pace, cry in lonely desperation or worse – try to break out of their house or yard, risking harm to themselves or their property. Some are calling it “Pandemic Syndrome.”
But even in normal times, some owners that believe they are doing their dog a loving favor by staying home with them as much as possible or taking them along everywhere they go. Their dog becomes their constant companion because they do not want to subject them to the stress of coping with hours alone. In the end, however, the results of too much togetherness can be the same: dogs that struggle with being alone.
Did you know that spending constant time together with your dog or accommodating their every whim or demand is breaking Mother Nature’s rules for creating healthy, happy dogs?
How the Mother Dog Raises Well-Adjusted Pups
In nature, the mother dog spends almost all of her time with her newborn pups until they are about 3-4 weeks old. But then she begins to spend more and more time away from them as they mature and are able to eat solid food and manage their own bodily functions without her help. The mother dotes on them less and less as they mature. She will give in to their demands for attention less and less, and as a result, the pups learn to be more and more self-sufficient and confident. By 6 – 7 weeks, puppies are weaned and are wandering out of their whelping area. They mature into well-adjusted adults, learning from the consequences and rewards of their own actions without a hovering mother to filter out life’s difficulties. In this way they develop as solid citizens.
Overcoming Coddling and “Pandemic Syndrome”
If you find that your dog has become too dependent upon you or too stressed when you try to leave them, here is a training plan for you to help them overcome their anxiety.
- Feed them in their crate
Start by putting their crate in a separate room, away from you. Feed them all their meals in that crate, door closed. Start by leaving them in there for 10 minutes. Once they can do that without non-stop barking, then try 20, then 45.
- Start additional crating sessions while you are home
In between mealtime crating, start random crating with a toy instead of food, still in a separate room, away from you. Same rules.
- Start crating when you leave the home
Leave for 15 min. When successful try 30. Then try an hour. From then on if successful, you should be able to crate your dog home alone for up 4 hours if you need to. Even if you do not “need” to crate your dog as above, keep this up so your dog does not revert to dependency.
- Try an overnight stay at a local kennel
Get to know a local kennel that you trust and try making an overnight reservation for your dog. Once your dog can pass this hurdle comfortably, you are well on your way to curing what can be the debilitating anxiety of too much coddling or “Pandemic Syndrome.”
For anyone who’s adopted a new dog during the Covid crisis, here is a link to a helpful article by Tina Gitto of Coverage.com, about dog ownership in these times from a home insurance perspective: