For most of us, the coronavirus outbreak has made a dramatic impact upon our lives. Whether home on furlough, working from home or homeschooling, all of a sudden our routines changed unexpectedly and our existences became almost entirely home-based.
As far as your dog is concerned, the last few weeks have been a blast! Suddenly all the best people in their life are around non-stop, with all of the accompanying perks that brings. What more could Fido want?
…until things start slowly to return to a version of normal and it’s time to go back to school, work and some form of the previous routines that we had in place. Whilst we might breathe a sigh of relief, our pets may not be feeling the same and problems with separation anxiety could creep in.
Dogs are a sociable species who are designed to live in packs and need the company of others. They need to learn that it’s ok to be left alone as part of their training, and as their owners it’s down to us to teach them that they can be happy and secure whilst they are on their own.
Preparation and consistency is key
If you know you will soon be returning to work and will be leaving your dog alone at home for the first time in a while, start to make changes to their routine as far in advance as possible and as gradually as you can. Try to organise your dog’s day with clearly defined walk times, play times, quiet time and time apart that will fit with your return to work. This way, your dog will come to understand what to expect and be better able to cope.
- If you are still working from home but know this will change in the near future, encourage a bit of distancing at defined points of the day, by shutting doors behind you and keeping yourself in separate parts of the house for periods at a time. You could start this process gently with a child gate first, and build up to eventually leaving your dog alone in the house for increasing increments of time
- If your dog sleeps beside you whilst you work, try where possible to encourage them to settle in their bed and gradually move this further away from where you are
Utilise toys, chews and Kongs™ stuffed with treats when your dog is having quiet time, so they associate being away from you with positive experiences and their attention is focussed on something pleasurable.
When you go
When the time comes to return to work, or at any point where you are leaving your dog, it’s important not to make a fuss of them when you leave and return, which will hype up the situation and signal to your dog that it’s a big deal. Instead, give them affection when they are calm. Try to ignore any attention seeking behaviour when you are at home and again, give them a fuss when they are calm.
- Try leaving a TV or radio on in the background for company
- Create a cosy space for your dog to relax and feel safe in
- Consider leaving them with a piece of worn clothing such as a t-shirt which will contain your smell and help them to feel secure
- Look into products available which can help reduce anxiety and stress – we are happy to advise.
Look out for signs of stress
It’s important to keep an eye out for signs that your dog might be struggling with being left alone. Indicators that this is the case can include:
- Destructive behaviour such as scratching and chewing
- Being excessively vocal
- An increase in panting and salivating
- Soiling in the house
- Not eating whilst you are not in the house
Be sure not to punish your dog for stress related behaviour – it will make the problem much worse. If you are concerned about your pet’s anxiety and need professional help – please speak to us – we are here to help.