As we slowly begin to resume our normal lives and transition back into our routines, it is important that we consider how this big change will once again affect our dogs. After months of having us at home almost 24/7, if not handled well, our return to work may have some adverse effects on our pups.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety arises when a dog is not comfortable with being left alone, being unable to cope with a persons absence and becoming extremely distressed and anxious. This can result in problematic behaviour, such as excessive barking, panting, damage etc. Separation anxiety can be one of the most difficult behaviours to deal with in dogs, and so prevention is key.
Tips to Ease out of Lockdown
In order to prevent separation anxiety, we must prepare our dogs for the change by slowing reintroducing them to our usual routine, avoiding a big change all at once.
- Time Apart From Your Dog
Now that lockdown restrictions are easing, we should utilise the new rules to slowly desensitise our dogs to being alone again. Each day, be sure to factor in some time to leave your house without your dog, for example, take a short walk without them or even leave them in a separate part of the house while you work. Start small with this, and slowly build up the time your dog is left alone so that they can once again become accustomed to being alone.
2. Maintain Routine
When our dogs become accustomed to a certain routine, anything outside of this routine can be a cause for stress and anxiety. When we return to work, where possible, we should try to maintain our dog’s routine, such as feeding times, walks, training, toilet breaks etc. Establishing a leaving routine lets our dogs know what is happening next, allowing them to feel secure.
3. Fake Leaving For Work
Our dogs very quickly pick up on our behaviours that mean we are about to leave, such as putting our shoes on, picking up our keys or putting on a jacket. All of these behaviours can act as a trigger for your dog, slowly building on their anxiety as they realise they are about to be left alone. The best way to desensitise your dog to these triggers is to practise them daily. Pick up your keys and head outside for a few minutes before returning, do this at different times of the day and extend the amount of time you spend away. Sometimes you can pick up your keys and not leave at all. The aim is to reduce your dogs anxiety to these triggers for when you do actually prepare to leave for work.
4. Physical and Mental Stimulation
Appropriate physical and mental stimulation are great stress relievers for our dogs, which can help reduce anxiety and allow our pups to better cope with our departure. Be sure your dog is getting the appropriate amount of both physical and mental stimulation before you leave. A few minutes of basic obedience training before you leave also helps to activate the learning part of your dogs brain, which in turn deactivates the emotional brain responsible for creating anxiety.
5. No Fussing!
As humans, for our own comfort we can sometimes over-fuss our dogs when we leave or return to the home. This only results in over-excitement in our dogs, which we are then rewarding with cuddles. Leaving our dogs alone in an excited state is a recipe for disaster! When you leave or return to your home, do not instantly make a fuss of your dog. Wait until your dogs calms, and then reward the calm behaviour.
6. Control Interactions
As we all begin to extend our time outside with our dogs, interactions with other dogs is inevitable. Remember, our dogs haven’t interacted with other dogs or people in months, so this could be an extremely exciting (or anxious) time for them. Be sure to control these interactions by keeping your dog on a lead and be vigilant with your dogs behaviour.
If you’re worried about leaving your dog and would like to discuss this in more detail, please do get in touch and I will be happy to have a chat.