Keeping Your Dog Happy When Returning to Work-Dog & Puppy Separation Anxiety
It’s been over a year since the pandemic restrictions set in around the UK. Many of the population have been working at home, consequently spending a lot more time with their pets or taking the plunge of getting a puppy. A survey by international delivery experts found that 83% of people feel their pet helps to relieve workplace pressures and stress. In lockdown, our pets made brilliant home office companions and helped us through the challenges of remote working. As the vaccine rolls out, restrictions are set to ease by the summer months and we will be able to go back into our usual offices. This may result in dog or puppy separation anxiety.
Dogs are particularly likely to experience separation anxiety as they are such social animals and want to be around us every day. A new puppy may have never been left alone and our dogs are much less used to it too having adapted to the lockdown. So how do we prepare them and us for another new normal? Here are a few ways to keep you and your dog happy when you return to work.
Gradually introduce the routine:
Dogs love routine. As the world returns to normal, it’s essential to get you and your dog used to what comes next. Gradually change your routine and get them used to how it will be when you return to the office. Do this by starting to spend short periods of time away from your pet so they can get used to being alone again. Slowly decrease the amount of attention they receive throughout the day but of course without ignoring them altogether. They will gradually learn that being away from you is safe and you will come back to them. The new routine may also include adjusting feeding regimes etc.
Meet the needs of your dog:
Your puppy (or dog) will need a secure, safe space to be left in when home alone. This will help reduce puppy separation anxiety. Some people choose to crate train for short periods of time alone, while others leave their dog in a confined space within the home, for example a room in the house. This is a personal choice but you must dog or puppy-proof any space they have access to. Consider tucking away wires, furniture, knick-knacks- anything that you would be devastated to lose or see as a potential danger. Consider training pads for a puppy being left alone. A nervous or bored puppy will get curious!
How will I notice dog or puppy separation anxiety?
If your puppy or dog suffers with separation anxiety you may notice signs such as;
- trembling or shaking
- being reluctant to take part in normal activities like walking or playing
- being more or less vocal than usual
- changes to toileting habits or eating habits
- becoming destructive
- excessive lip licking or drooling
- excessive grooming and licking
Accept that new routines take time:
Helping your dog adjust will require training, consistency and oodles of patience. It does not happen overnight and will be a gradual process. Be positive with your dog and reward wanted behaviour. Try and ignore unwanted behaviour rather than tell off, knowing that your dog ultimately wants to please you and is learning new habits. This can be difficult after a hard day at work but is crucial to be positive and reassuring in order to gain long term success.
Without enough exercise, your dog will be over-aroused and struggle to relax when they’re alone. You need to give your dog a walk before you leave them alone. They need plenty of time to go to the loo and expel energy. Let them play and sniff around on your dog walks so they can burn off some energy and stimulate their brains.
Enrichment and mental stimulation
There are many dog toys on the market to offer mental stimulation. Invest in a few problem-solving toys for your dog to keep them entertained while you’re gone for short periods. You could also buy chew toys for your dog as chewing releases good chemicals in their brain and makes them feel more at ease. Make sure that any toys or chews that you are leaving are safe, for example, there are no parts that can come loose and be swallowed, or choke risks.
Use a dog walker:
If you are going to be away for more than a couple of hours at a time, consider finding a quality dog walker to help you. This may also be useful if you find it difficult to maintain exercise levels for your dog with a demanding career. In your absence, your dog can interact and exercise, aiding their mental health and happiness.
Do your research here and find a professional that suits your family. Get your dog used to this new person in their life gradually. Help the walker know your dog by giving them as much information as possible, for example habits, likes, and fears. Some walkers can even give them the opportunity to socialise with other pups and dogs.
It is tempting to make a fuss of your puppy or dog as you leave and return to them but this can confuse and worry them. It can make the separation an issue and heighten their anxiety. Remain calm and greet your dog only when they are showing the behaviour you want from them- calm behaviour. This will help them learn that you leaving and returning to them is not a big deal. Over time this will reduce their separation anxiety.
If you are concerned about your dog’s behaviour, use your smartphone to film them while you’re gone. Go for a short walk, leave your phone propped in a place to view your dog and see what they get up to. If they’re playing with their toys or sleeping, they’re probably happy to be alone. You are also able to buy Smart Cameras to monitor your dog at home and keep an eye on them via an app.
If your dog is extremely anxious or you feel you need advice with their behaviour speak to your veterinary or a trusted dog professional. If recommended, there are many natural calming supplements and products available to help their anxiety.
The gift of time:
Ultimately, you are the centre of your dog’s universe so make sure that, despite your change of lifestyle, they still have plenty of quality time with you. Play games with them, walk with them and give them affection.
How has your dog coped with your return to work? How have your helped with dog or puppy separation anxiety? Let us know in the comments below.