As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, more people may be heading back to work as our lifestyles before the pandemic slowly return. As your life starts to change, your dog may struggle with you not being with them all the time. Separation anxiety can develop during lifestyle changes or transitions in a dog’s life. A new adoption, a move, the addition or loss of another pet, and changes in the owner’s routine can all make your pet insecure when you leave the house.
As we have all experienced this year, changes to our routine can be distressing and disorienting. For our dogs, separation anxiety is a condition, with varying degrees of severity, in which a dog exhibits distress and other behavioral issues when separated from their owner. It can be expressed through behavior changes, disruptive barking, destructive behaviors like scratching or chewing, or even behaviors that can lead to injury. The wind-up to separation anxiety begins as the pet owner prepares to leave the house, and the most disruptive and destructive behavior usually occurs in the first 20 minutes after the owner’s departure. The key to avoiding separation anxiety lies in keeping your dog relaxed and happy during this window of time. Some careful planning will help make sure your workday means snooze-time and not stress-time for your dog.
Our resident veterinarian, Dr. Sperry, compiled her top tips for pet parents to help their dogs adapt to their new lifestyle and prevent separation anxiety:
- Shift your dog’s routines to the time you will be walking them when you go back to work.
- Limit walk duration and frequency to amounts that are reasonable and achievable for your away-from-home work schedule
- During the day, make sure your dog spends more time in the area normally designated for them when you’re away from home (such as a crate, the kitchen, or your bedroom)
- Leave your pet at home alone for short periods of time during the day. Lengthen that time with practice
- Offer your pet an appealing and time-consuming toy or treat when you leave. Stuffed Kong toys, treat balls, hide chews, and even kibble in an ice-cube tray work well
- Make your departure as uneventful as possible – skip any prolonged or dramatic goodbyes
- Be subtle and quiet about your departure routines – zipping coats, collecting bags, jingling keys
- Consider “faking” your departure routine several times in the weeks leading up to your eventual return to the office
- Before you leve, turn on some comforting noise like the TV, music or radio
- Make your return home as uneventful and low-key as possible
- Consider using mild anxiety-reducing tools such as Adaptyl®, a ThunderShirt, or even calming supplements
If these tips don’t work, consult your veterinarian for more advice to ease your dog’s separation anxiety. Best of luck, to you and your pup, if you are returning to work!