Are you concerned that your dog might develop separation anxiety when you return to work after the pandemic? You’re not alone! Follow these expert tips to help him adjust without a hitch.
One of the few silver linings of this pandemic is that the overwhelming majority (97%) of pet parents say they’ve bonded more closely to their dog during these challenging times. And, adoption rates have soared as people see the benefits of adding a companion to their lives. Those are inarguably positive things, but as restrictions begin to lessen and folks start going back to work, the majority of dog owners (58%) are concerned about their dog experiencing separation anxiety.
So, what are pet parents doing? A little more than a quarter (27%) of dog owners said they are planning to purchase a pet camera for when they go back to work, so that they can keep an eye on their pup. Another quarter (26%) said they hope to hire a dog walker to break up the day while they’re gone. Those are great ideas, but what about preventing the problem?
Top prevention tips
There are a number of signs that indicate your dog is suffering from separation anxiety. A few examples include not being able to eat or play while you are gone from the room; urinating in the house when alone; pacing; trying to escape when alone; or whimpering, howling, barking, or crying when alone. To prevent these types of behaviors when it’s time for you to return to work, try the following:
1. Work on crate training games
These are fun ways to create a positive association to a crate which can be a relaxing environment when they are stressed, if introduced properly. For example, throw a couple treats in the crate for your dog to find and give them plenty of encouragement when they go in the crate on their own. Don’t reward them, though, when they come out of the crate.
2. Start slow
Spend short periods of time separated for your pet each day, starting really low such as 2–3 minutes and slowly building up time.
3. Don’t make a big deal when you leave or come home
By fussing over your pet when you leave and come home, you’re potentially creating extra stress for the next time you leave. Keep it casual to keep separation anxiety at bay.
4. Help your dog stay stimulated
Find puzzle games, frozen KONG recipes and other things that help keep your dog stay mentally busy.
5. Offer pleasant distractions
Play some music, white noise or the TV to create noise in your house. Have it on when you leave. Animal-loving dogs may enjoy watching DogTV, which has the colors adjusted to attract dogs to the images on the screen.
6. Try calming pheromones
Consider using a DAP diffuser, which releases dog-appeasing pheromones in the air. These don’t work for all dogs but may have a positive impact and can help prevent separation anxiety.
7. Stick to a schedule
Get your dog on a similar schedule to what it will be when you do go back to work. This includes walks, mealtimes and attention.
Separation anxiety is a common concern, especially in times of transition. Follow the above tips to help your dog ease back into your regular work routine as smoothly as possible.
Methodology: Rover.com survey of 1,000 North American pet owners.
Nicole Ellis is a pet lifestyle expert, certified professional dog trainer and co-author of Working Like a Dog. Nicole has appeared on The Today Show, NBC, Fox and MSN as well as Mashable, Pet360, Travel+Leisure, Huffington Post and more. Nicole’s dogs, Maggie and Rossi, are animal actors and appear in campaigns for Shiseido, AT&T, Neiman Marcus, Target, Uber, Oh Joy!, iFetch, Jax & Bones, Benjamin Moore and more.