As we unpack the past 2 years, the requirement to embrace change became necessary during unprecedented upheaval. We found creative ways to entertain ourselves indoors and learned to Zoom. We’ve emerged from the Covid cocoon, yet what about our pets?
Dogs born and/or acquired in 2020 were kept in isolation too. Robbed of the opportunity to socialize with other dogs and experience a routine away from their owners, they may suffer acute separation anxiety and fear of new events. Both dogs and cats were living La Dolce Vita with 24/7 attention and may be experiencing signs of anxiousness and anxiety as their owners return to offices, travel and spend longer periods away from them.
According to Stacy Liberatore for DailyMail.com in an article published last June, researchers at Auburn University discovered that: “pandemic puppies” are fearful during encounters with other dogs and humans because they spent so much of their early lives cooped up inside” and are prone to panic in unfamiliar environments. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-9694389/Pandemic-puppies-adopted-COVID-19-lockdowns-face-behavior-challenges.html
As early socialization is critically important in the first 3 months of a young pup’s life, learning to bond and socially communicate with other dogs and people helps them develop their coping skills and confidence.
Perhaps you’ve seen signs of client’s pets’ anxiety such as whining or increased barking, excessive licking or shaking, indoor destruction or never-done-before accidents, lack of appetite or refusing treats. Cats may also show these same signs in addition to suddenly ignoring the litter box, attempting to hide or escape, or pouring on more affection than usual.
Clients may need to begin a period of “desensitization” by leaving their dogs or cats alone for a spell. Starting with short absences and gradually increasing the time they are gone. Sessions should be kept short while avoiding the impulse to make it a big deal when they leave or return.
With patience, a pet will learn to adapt. Devotional practice is required as it may take a few weeks to months to reestablish that pet’s confidence during owner absences from home. First, determine the threshold of time it takes before the pet panics. Increase their time alone until they are comfortable from minutes to hours. Vary the time of day for these practice sessions.
Make sure that before anyone leaves the house, positive rewards are provided so they have a different focus about the exit. Give them a high value treat so they associate something yummy with the departure. Leaving entertainment toys or a stuffed Kong to keep them occupied while the house is empty is a good distraction. For cats, introduce a new toy or bring out their favorite one only during those “vacant” hours.
Of course, continued exercise and mental stimulation should be routine for dogs and cats. Staying cooped up in the home, with or without human interaction, can promote anxiety. Going for regular walks, play time, training activities and lots of physical affection are especially important for their mental health. This is where a professional pet sitter shines when providing daily walks or fur babysitting services.
Advertising and social media messages should focus on these key elements to promote your valuable services. Fur babysitting services for a few hours in the client’s home is a business opportunity for pet sitters. Offering pet entertainment (a longer timeframe than routine walks or visits to clean the litterbox and fill the food bowl) is worth consideration based on your client base and how many “Covid” pets you can uncover.
NOTE: If these counter-conditioning methods aren’t working, it’s possible the pet may have a medical condition that requires a veterinarian’s analysis. If all else fails, some pets may benefit from calming aids (subject to the family vet’s interface in this regard).
As we adapt to change, dogs and cats can also adjust and be just as happy with careful guidance on your part.
Your AoPP Pet Pro Team