Author: Nicole McCray
The COVID-19 Pandemic brought many people back home for work. Being home all the time meant that pet owners got to spend more time with and give their dogs a lot more attention. All that time has elevated our bond, and our dogs have become used to the new routine.
With many things opening back up and people having to return to work regularly again, we will disrupt this routine once again. It can cause anxiety and stress for our furry companions. The consistent and constant connection we had puts our dogs at higher risk for feeling separation anxiety and distress.
Pets, just like humans, can act out when they are feeling upset or distressed. Some signs that your pet is feeling this way is that they create messes when you leave the house. They might chew furniture, tear up clothes, or possibly even try to break through windows or doors. There might also be excessive panting, pacing, whimpering or salivating that occurs. Keep an eye out for these signs, and call your vet with any radical displays.
Dogs that have shown behavior issues in the past, senior dogs, or newly adopted dogs have a higher rate of displaying signs of separation anxiety. You might be concerned or worried about your pet showing symptoms of separation anxiety or stress when you return to work after a long stint at home. There are some helpful ways that you can safely accommodate your dog when you have to leave the house for more extended periods.
FIND SOME TIME-CONSUMING DISTRACTIONS
Distracting your dog may seem like a means to an end, but it is an effective way of taking your dog’s mind off the fact that you are leaving the house. There are many ways that you can work to distract your pet.
Having your dog’s favorite toy or a food puzzle handy can help create a new mindset so that they do not view you leaving as troublesome. The team at Bond Vet Veterinary Care encourages distracting your dog with food or toys as you’re about to leave to encourage your pet to look forward to your departure. It turns the experience from being stressful or anxiety inducing to an exciting and enjoyable exchange.
INCREASE ALONE TIME
If you work in an area with a door, shut the door sometimes during your day so that your dog cannot see you. You can also take breaks or lunch times outside where the dog doesn’t see you. Do this in small doses and gradually increase in periods so that your dog will get used to you being away.
Creating these frequent separations done in a gradual manner helps to teach your dog more independence, and by the time you do have to return to the office or be gone most of the day, it will not be abrupt or worrisome. Use positive reinforcement so that your dog’s behavior is rewarded for being good while you are away, and your dog will continue to display that behavior.
CREATE A COMFORTABLE ENVIRONMENT
It can be helpful if you create an area for your dog where it can have its own special place. This place can aid your dog in allowing it to feel more safe and secure. Encourage positive interactions in this place, and keep things like a soft blanket or dog bed for your dog to comfort.
You might also consider crate training your dog if you had not before. If your pet is already familiar with the care, you can have your dog spend time there during certain times, such as working or making dinner, so that it can be on its own.
HIRE A DOG WALKER OR SITTER
If you are concerned about your dog feeling more stressed or anxious with you leaving, you could see about hiring a dog walker to come to provide your dog some company during the day. Your dog might not need the walk, but you might want to have someone check-in. You could see if a neighbor who is home or someone else you trust could just check-in and give your dog a treat.
DOWNPLAY COMINGS AND GOINGS
Another helpful technique you can work on is downplaying overreactions when you come home. We all enjoy that our dog is happy to see us walk in the door, but when you use that emotional response for hellos and goodbyes, you negatively reinforce the anxiousness. It impacts them more because they know you are not there.
Instead, you should try to speak to your dog calmly and be relaxed. Do not get too excited when you leave or come home. Treat it as carefree as possible so that your dog is less aware of your coming and going, and that will eliminate any adverse reactions.
It would be great if we return to the office to bring our dog to work with us. Unfortunately, many of us working folk do not have the luxury to do so. If you are concerned about your dog’s separation anxiety and stress when you are away, you can try out some calming pheromone sprays or a weighted coat to help keep calm.
If none of these suggestions work and you fear your dog’s anxiety or stress is getting worse, it is time to call the vet. Your dog may be suffering from a phobia or need medication to combat anxiety and stress.
Dogs are typically resilient, so many of these small tools can help them cope with changes to routine. With some work on their routine, as long as you continue to keep consistent and make things regular, your dog should adjust to your absence in no time.