Normally, the first sign of panic is the dog vocalising; they either bark, whine or howl to let you know that they feel insecure. Some dogs may move on to destructive behaviour, like scratching the floor or pawing their crate. Often, they start to pant, which is a stress response that indicates the dog feels unsafe. This can escalate into actual crying, heavier panting, drooling, and frantic behaviour, such as digging the floor, pacing and defecating. All of these indicate that the dog is in distress.

Destructive behaviour should never be punished, as it is a way of the dog trying to regulate their own nervous system. In the same way that humans suck their thumbs, or scroll through their phones, dogs bite, or tear things to try and calm themselves down. The longer their owner is away, the more their distress builds, causing the destruction to get worse.

As soon as you leave the house, levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and adrenaline, increase in dogs with dependency issues. Sometimes, it can take anywhere between 24 and 48 hours for the cortisol and adrenaline to leave the body. The more often we leave an anxious dog, the more this process happens. This can have a knock on effect on dogs’ immune systems, digestion and microbiome. It can also lead to bad behaviour; dogs who are routinely put in panic situations are not going to feel safe, so it becomes harder to get your dog to perform how you want.

This can make owners’ lives miserable too. Although the world is opening up again, an anxious dog can easily put their owner into another lockdown.

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