COLUMBIA - Alexis Labeth adopted two rescues during quarantine and has noticed signs of higher anxiety levels, however she isn’t the only owner experiencing this.
Labeth adopted Gracie, a playful 2-year-old pit mix, in March 2020 and Maverick, a 5-month old terrier mix in June 2020, who both have severe anxiety levels that worsened due to the pandemic.
Whether owners adopted dogs during quarantine or already had a pet at home, the schedule change caused higher anxiety levels in dogs due to owners spending drastically more time at home.
“We belong to a dog sports club and everyone who has a dog right now is like, ‘Yep we have problems,’" Labeth said.
As the coronavirus first hit the US, shelters and adoption centers reported an increase in adoptions of dogs. People suspected they would be able to spend more time at home and chose to fill that with connections to pets. However, as life begins to shift back to normal and people return back to work, more dogs are showing signs of high anxiety levels than before.
Labeth returned to the office for work in June of last year, just three months after adopting Gracie. That's when she began to see Gracie’s separation anxiety form.
“She would bust out of her crate, chew through her paws and had to go to MU for stitches, and hated being by herself,” Labeth said.
Maverik also shows similar signs of anxiety.
“He is anxious of all people and things,” Labeth said. “He screams in his crate and he’s tried to bust out the screen of my second story bedroom when I was in the backyard."
Though dog owners are not the only people recognizing this change in behavior. Veterinarian Dr. Tanner May at R Veterinary Clinic, located in Columbia, is noticing this behavior change in dogs more frequently.
“It's definitely very evident that they (dogs) were very anxious to come to see us,” May said.
May explained anxiety also fosters from a decrease in socialization. As COVID-19 cases increase, owners may become less comfortable with bringing their pet to the dog park and options for group training remain limited which can have lasting effects.
“If these puppies miss this prime socialization period when they're younger, they are very afraid of a lot of things," May said. "It’s really going to take some time as things start to open back up to get those puppies and dogs to associate all the new things with positive interactions."
Decreasing fear and anxiety levels takes a lot of work and is time consuming. Many dog owners have turned to local dog trainers to aid in calming their dog’s anxiety levels.
Samantha George, a positive reinforcement trainer in the Columbia area, has been training dogs since 2014. George conducts individualized training sessions with dog owners to cater to each pet’s specific needs. Many of her clients are noticing signs of high anxiety levels.
George recommends creating structure for your dogs to bring pets’ anxiety levels down. It will begin to become a part of what they know and expect.
“Giving that sense of security is going to be a big thing,” George said. “Get a routine going, get them used to their kennel again, make sure you sit in your garage and they may think you left for the day”.
Quarantined pets are showing dog owners new problems and the value of socialization. It is important to recognize the change in behavior as a product of the pandemic and continue to help your dog get through the impact of the pandemic.
“I hope people don't give up on their dogs that they got during quarantine, really kind of work with them and figure out a way where everyone’s happy and not having anxiety attacks,” May said.