No one on earth was more thankful for the widespread Shelter In Place orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic than the dogs of the world! All across the planet, pups are overjoyed to spend every waking moment by their human companion’s side, soaking up all the love and extra pets their heart desires. While we humans are navigating our way through our “new normal,” we are comforted by the knowledge that this is all temporary. Our loyal companions, however, are blissfully unaware that there are changes on the horizon.
The abrupt transition from constant human presence to significant periods of being home alone as their pet parents return to work could trigger the onset of separation anxiety in some dogs. Whether you’re already back to work or are preparing to return, it is important to keep your dog’s emotional wellbeing in mind. Separation anxiety can manifest in many symptoms, the most common of which being property destruction, excessive vocalization, excessive activity, and having frequent “accidents” in the home. Whether your plan is to set your puppy up for success or you are already seeing symptoms in your dog, here are some simple steps you can take to help ease your pup’s mind.
What if I’m still working from home but want to prepare for the future?
There are many things you can do to get your dog used to spending some time on their own while you are still spending most of your time in the home.
- Practice daily periods of separation, starting with a few minutes at a time and building up to longer trips out. Take a walk without your dog, or close off your office space so that they do not have constant access to you. Give your pup a designated area to hang out in without you, such as a crate, playpen, or room with a gate or door that you can close. Provide them with a long lasting treat, like a peanut butter filled frozen kong or a No-Hide, so they associate their space with something positive.
- Always keep reunion greetings after you’ve been away low key/unemotional. If you make a big deal out of your return home, they will be anxiously looking forward to your return every time you leave, no matter the length of time.
- Pets can perceive and be impacted by their human companion’s emotional state. Be sure to practice self care to reduce stress and anxiety in your home, thus improving the mental state of your best friend.
What if I’ve returned to work and I’m already seeing symptoms?
Don’t panic! There are many different paths you can take to reduce or eliminate your dog’s separation anxiety.
- Consider consulting your veterinarian. Veterinarians are experienced with diagnosing and treating separation anxiety. Treatment may include social management (Dog Daycare, pet sitters, dog walker), behavior modification, pheromone therapy, or drug treatment. Together you and your vet can decide what method will work best for your pet, or may try combining therapies for the best outcome.
- Minimize drama associated with your departure/return. Try to have everything organized so that your departure is smooth and unceremonious, and avoid emotional goodbyes and reunions with your pup. Pair a long-lasting positive reward with your departure, such as a frozen peanut butter kong, puzzle toys, or No-Hides.
- Try to maintain your dog’s schedule outside of your working hours. If they are used to an hour long walk in the evening, continue that activity when you return home. This not only provides exercise and enrichment but also the consistency that your pup craves.
Could Dog Daycare help my pup with their separation anxiety?
Whether you are home 24/7 or not, consistency and structure are key elements for helping your pup feel confident and secure. Dog Daycare allows your pup to socialize with both dogs and humans, keeps them mentally stimulated throughout the day, and provides a positive experience that has nothing to do with their human companion. At the end of a day of daycare, your pup should be returned to you happy and tired. Working in 2 or more days per week of daycare will add a level of socialization and enrichment that has many benefits to your pup, beyond just assisting with separation anxiety. Try to find a daycare that suits your needs. Good customer service and communication will be key as you work through your dog’s anxiety issues. Also consider group sizes, human-to-dog ratio, and special accommodations that are offered for dogs who might need some extra attention. Read reviews, tour the facility, talk to the staff, and most importantly, listen to your intuition.
Remember, you know your dog better than anyone else. Separation anxiety can manifest in many ways, so if you feel something is off, you’re probably right! Your veterinarian can help you find the solution that is best for you and your best friend. It may take a lot of trial and error, but once you start seeing progress, your dog will thank you for it!.