As more and more businesses start to bring their employees back into the office, this will shake up a lot of household routines that have been in place for over a year now. As dog owners abruptly transitioned from pre-pandemic routines of working and socializing outside the home to spending more time than ever at home with their pets due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and telecommuting, resuming our normal routines may be tough for our furry friends. Therefore, if you’re planning on returning to the office soon, beginning a new job, traveling, or simply just starting to leave home again on a regular basis, continue reading for signs of separation anxiety and helpful tips.
There are varying degrees of anxiety when it comes to dogs, just the same as people, and it is not uncommon. An abrupt change in schedule in terms of when and for how long a dog is left alone can be a trigger for the development of separation anxiety. Dogs rely on consistency so any time that there is an abrupt change, it can cause stress. A few examples of the behaviors that can indicate separation anxiety in a dog are:
- Urinating and defecating
- Excessive barking and howling when left alone
- Chewing, digging, and destruction
- Pacing, whining, or trembling
Visit aspca.org to learn more about the details of each indicating behavior.
It is normal to feel guilty as you plan on returning to work; however, it’s also important to remember that it is, in fact, what your dog has known for most of their life. While spending this last bit of time at home, dog owners should implement a preparation routine now to make the transition easier for your dog. Some helpful tips to reduce this anxiety are outlined below:
1. Make an effort to leave home for short periods of time.
Leave your dog at home for short trips or errands that you’d normally bring them along for, such as running errands at the store or even taking the trash out. This will help to gradually build up the amount of time that you’re away from each other, instead of going from zero to ten hours a day.
2. Practice time apart, even when you are home.
This one will be tricky! By not giving your dog constant attention every minute that you’re home, you will make being truly by themselves during the day that much easier for them when the time comes. However, we don’t want to go overboard with this one and ignore our dogs while together. This could end up creating more anxiety, so if your dog comes in for a cuddle or a pet, don’t withhold your affection. If you happen to travel into separate rooms of the house, however, this is a good way to coax independence.
3. Making alone time into fun time.
By leaving some things out for your dog for the time that you are gone, this will give them something to focus their energy and attention on. If your dog likes chewing on bones or puzzle treat dispensers, leave these things out for them to focus on and not the fact that you’re not with them anymore. This will train your dog’s brain to not only associate this as a normal part of their day but also, that it is a good one.
4. Make both your departure and arrival a calm and positive one.
As each dog owner knows, the two main ways to reinforce calm and good behavior are praise and treats! By giving your dog one of their favorite treats when you leave your home, they will be too busy to focus on your departing. Similarly, if your dog is a jumper and/or a barker when you or any of your family members return through the door, it’s a good idea to calm them first before giving them the treat and praise. Soon after doing this a few times, your dog will know to be calm when someone comes into or out of the house.
5. Keep a light-hearted mood!
Our furry friends are great at reading our moods and picking up on the little things. For this reason, we need to make sure that we leave the worry and sadness about leaving home out of the picture, as it will likely make our dogs feel the same way. When leaving the house, try your best to think and speak positively to keep the mood light. It will help your dog greatly if you put on that brave face before leaving them for the day, even if your heart is hurting on the inside.
If your dog continues to show signs of anxiety after the transition, don’t be afraid to speak to a veterinarian or a certified separation anxiety trainer that could help your situation significantly. We have to remember not to blame ourselves and that the COVID-19 situation in particular, has caused chaos for everyone. While there have been many negatives to the pandemic, more cuddle time with our furry friends has definitely been a plus, and not something to take for granted!