Reflecting on the challenges and changes of the year 2020, many of us found comfort in the presence of our furry companions during the COVID lockdown. Whether you welcomed a new four-legged friend into your home or cherished the extra time spent with an existing pet, our pets became our solace during uncertain times. As we look ahead to a post-lockdown phase, it’s crucial to consider the potential impact on our pets. With constant human presence, many pets may experience separation anxiety, and some may develop noise phobia or fear aggression. Understanding the different types of aggression in dogs and understanding their causes will help our beloved companions navigate through their stress.
Understanding Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a distressing emotional response that pets experience when separated from their owners or when they perceive their absence. This anxiety can manifest in various behavioral and physiological signs, and recognizing these signs is vital for responsible pet owners. Common symptoms of separation anxiety include panting, pacing, salivation, hyperventilation, and even gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea. Additionally, some dogs may become withdrawn and inactive, while others exhibit extreme panic and escape behavior, especially when crated. It’s not uncommon for a dog with separation anxiety to lose interest in food when left alone and then voraciously consume it upon the owner’s return. Destructive behavior and excessive barking or howling can also be indicators of separation anxiety.
As responsible pet owners, we must understand that our pets depend on our emotional support. Sudden changes in our daily lives can lead to this condition, but there are steps we can take to alleviate it.
Addressing Separation Anxiety
Gradual Adaptation: Begin by leaving your pet alone for short durations and gradually increase the time. This helps them adjust to your absence slowly.
Create a Comfortable Space: Make sure your pet has a cozy and safe area to stay in when you’re not around. You can use a crate or a designated room with their favorite toys.
Desensitization: Practice leaving the house without making a big fuss or giving too much attention before departure or after arrival.
Seek Professional Help: If your pet’s separation anxiety is severe, consulting a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer may be necessary.
Understanding Noise Phobia
Noise phobia is an irrational and intense fear response to specific sounds that pets may develop at any age and in any breed. Dogs with noise phobia often exhibit behaviors like hiding, urinating or defecating in inappropriate places, destructive behavior, excessive drooling, and panting. They may also pace, tremble, shake, whine, bark excessively, or attempt to escape in fear. Seeking human family members for comfort is another common reaction during noise phobia episodes. Fireworks and thunderstorms are the most well-known triggers for noise phobia, but pets can develop a fear of any sound, no matter how inconsequential it may seem to us. Moreover, the more exposure a pet has to a frightening noise, the more intense their phobic response may become.
Addressing Noise Phobia
Safe Space: Create a safe, quiet space for your pet during noisy events. This can be a room with familiar items and soothing music or white noise.
Counterconditioning: Gradually expose your pet to the feared sound at a low volume and associate it with positive experiences, like treats or playtime.
Consult a Professional: If noise phobia is severely affecting your pet’s well-being, seek guidance from a veterinarian or a pet behaviorist.
Understanding Fear Aggression
Fear aggression is often confused with dominance aggression but is primarily about intimidating someone or something out of fear. Dogs that haven’t been properly socialized or have experienced abuse are more likely to exhibit fear aggression. Signs to watch for include a cowering posture, an open mouth with bared teeth, narrowed eyes, and ears pinned to their head. Fear aggression is typically triggered by strangers, loud noises, fireworks, and unfamiliar places or territories.
Addressing Fear Aggression
While fear aggression cannot be fully “cured,” there are ways to help your dog manage their fear. Proper training, positive reinforcement, and, in some cases, medication can help reduce their fears and behaviors.
As pet owners, it is our responsibility to recognize the signs of separation anxiety, noise phobia, and fear aggression in our beloved companions. In a world slowly returning to normalcy post-lockdown, the adjustment can be challenging for our pets. Understanding these types of aggression in dogs and taking proactive steps to help them navigate through their fears and anxieties is essential for their well-being and our harmonious coexistence. Show compassion, seek professional guidance when necessary, and provide the love and support that your furry friends need to thrive in a changing world.