Separation anxiety & your dog: Going back to work after lockdown
As lockdown restrictions start to ease and many of us crawl out of our cabin-fever-filled homes, pets (who have loved having us all home for weeks on end), might take a bit of a knock and suffer from separation anxiety. Here’s how to prepare your pet and calm their anxiety the right way.
As our government starts to slowly open some doors and many of us creep out of what feels like years in quarantine, some of us will begin working from the office again. And despite how you might feel about the situation, best believe your pet is certainly not happy about the upcoming changes (or rather, won’t be happy the moment she sees you grab your work bag and head out the door for work).
And trust us when we say, it will also be a big change for you to leave your furry members of the family behind while you go out to bring home the bacon, so to speak.
So, to prevent any unwanted tears and anxiety, we have put together a little guide to better prepare your pet for the inevitable.
What is separation anxiety in pets?
Before we get into how to prevent the issue, let’s first define what it is.
According to PetMD, separation anxiety happens when your dog is hyper-attached to you and as a result, becomes incredibly stressed when you leave her alone. The condition goes beyond a little whining when you walk out the door or some misbehaving when you’re out of the house. This is a real and serious condition.
Signs of separation anxiety in your dog:
- Howling, barking and whining excessively when left alone
- Having indoor ‘accidents’ even if your dog is house trained
- Chewing things, digging holes and scratching at doors and windows
- Drooling, panting, and salivating more than usual
- Obsessively pacing in a pattern
- Trying to escape
Explore more: Pet Parent Advice: 6 Tips For Dealing With Anxious Pets
Treating separation anxiety
Before we get into the detailed hacks, we have some quick tips for you. Remember, if your dog suffers from severe separation anxiety, then it’s a good idea to talk to your vet or an animal behaviour expert.
If the case is mild, her are some top tips:
- Give Bruno a special treat or toy every time you leave the house (a Kong stuffed with peanut butter or a chewable and dog-friendly piece of rawhide to chew on for hours are some great options). Only give him the treat when you leave and take it away from him when you get home.
- When you leave and come home, try to act low key about it. Don’t make a big fuss of the greeting. It’s a good idea to ignore your dog for a few minutes when you first come home.
- Leave some blankets or recently worn clothes in your dog’s bed that smell like you - a sense of comfort will do wonders for your dog.
- Chat to your vet about over-the-counter natural calming supplements.
How to prepare your dog for when you leave home during the day
1. Spend some time apart
Before you leave the house for 8 hours or more a day, seeing as you and Buster have practically been inseparable up until now, it’s a good idea to give each other some space!
Start with just leaving the house for an hour or so, take a walk or go to the shops - just make sure your pet cannot see or hear you. See these short breaks away from one another as training for your first big day out.
Over a period of a week or so, try to increase this time of separations. If you notice any signs of separation anxiety in your home while you have been away, then you can dial down the length of your time out of the house and then start again.
Explore more: 4 Interactive Indoor Games To Play With Your Dog
2. Give your dog something to keep him occupied
As we mentioned, a mentally stimulated toy such as a stuffed Kong or rawhide are great ways to keep your dog occupied for hours.
You can also leave the TV on or leave some music playing for ambient noise to help your dog feel like he is not home alone.
3. Keep calm (seriously)
In some cases, you can worsen our dog’s anxiety. If you are feeling nervous of leaving your pet home alone, and say goodbye three times and seem sad and might just break into tears (we get it), it’s better if you suck it up and do not let your dog pick up on your own anxiety.
Just say a brief goodbye, and as mentioned, make your return uneventful. Nobody likes a long goodbye, and our pets are no different. You want your dog to feel like it’s ‘no biggie’ that you are leaving for the day.
If your dog suffers from severe separation anxiety
If the problem is a little more serious, then as we previously wrote, you need to get your dog slowly used to your absence.
There might be certain triggers such as grabbing your keys or laptop bag that result in spiking Bruno’s anxiety.
The trick is to do those things, without leaving the house. So get dressed, grab your keys and laptop bag and sit down and watch some Netflix. When your dog starts to feel a little less anxious about those sorts of things, then you can slowly begin to disappear.
Exercise your dog
One of the golden rules of owning a pet and negating anxiety is to ensure they are getting enough exercise. Make sure your dog gets enough exercise every day to improve his mood and tire him out for when it comes time for you to leave the house.
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