I have been retired for a year now. Thus began a different existence for Zekie with his momma home most of the time. I have spent even more time at home than I anticipated because of the Covid pandemic. I wondered how these changes would affect Zekie, a dog with severe separation anxiety. You can read about those thoughts in last year’s post here. Zekie’s New Adventures
Zekie is not a miraculously changed boy as I had hoped. I did not really expect it. He is, however, a happier dog. He only spends about two hours alone once or twice a week. And when I come home, he is a nervous wreck. Leaving him with a special treat does help slightly now. I have two kongs that I save for when hubby and I both go away and Zekie must be crated. In one kong, I put peanut butter and add a couple small biscuits that become stuck in the peanut butter so it’s a job to get them out. The other kong is bone shaped with holes on each end and these I stuff tightly with baby carrots so it is a job to chew them out. I give Zekie the kongs only when he goes in his crate and we go away from home. He is still upset when we return but the level of hysteria is less than it was a year ago. It is improvement, just not what I had hoped.
Often, I feel so bad knowing how upset Zekie will be if I leave him that I end up taking him along and adjusting my errands. For instance, I needed to take a trip to the paint store. Rather than leaving Zekie at home, I took him with me. I made sure to park directly in front of the store so that Zekie could see me from the car through the large plate glass windows. He is ok if I am in his line of sight.
I can’t know for sure what has caused the improvement, slight though it is, in Zekie’s behavior. Is it really the kongs that have helped? Probably not. I have worked with him a bit on obedience too. Being obedient was never really his problem. He is very good about following commands such as sit, down, and stay. Even from 20 feet away. The anxiety is what causes the problems. The drooling, leash reactivity, and obsession with licking. Licking every thing! He licks himself, the floor, the dog beds, our couches, pillows. He does it to displace stress so I try to direct him to lick a few select things like a rope bone, or chew a Nylabone. But, it is a constant battle of telling him all day long, “Zekie, don’t like the floor”, etc.
The thing that I suspect is the biggest help to Zekie’s stress level is something that is indirectly related to my retirement and being at home. Increased exercise. We spend much more time hiking now. We try to get a hike in four or five days a week at one of the local parks. We take five of the dogs for our outings, everyone but Nikki. She is 13 years old now and can’t keep up. All the dogs benefit but especially Zekie. In the past 30 days we have hiked over 46 miles and spent almost 20.5 hours doing it. Many days, the dogs get frisbeed too. Even days such as today when it is snowing, I will take the pups out for a frisbee session and walk around the pasture with them a few laps.
I did not have time for this much activity and exercise when I worked full time. The jury is still on whether what has helped Zekie is the fact that I am at home or that he is getting much more exercise. Probably some combination thereof. I am getting more exercise too so I guess either way, it is a win!