Has your dog loved having you home more often or are they ready to send you back to work? You may want to start preparing your dog for the routine they will return to once the stay-at-home order is lifted in order to prevent a disaster caused by sudden separation anxiety.
Your dog may experience some sort of separation anxiety when you begin to spend more time outside of the home leaving them alone for longer periods of time. They might express their anxiety by urinating or defecating in the home, chewing, digging, or barking and howling. Separation anxiety typically sets in immediately or within the first twenty minutes of being left alone. Do not punish your dog for reacting this way. Anxiety induced behaviors are not from lack of training or disobedience but rather from them reacting to a stressful situation.
Leading up to the anticipation of a change in the home you should slowly introduce the new routine. This means providing a schedule of potty breaks, play and meal times, or time you expect they will spend in their kennel. This allows them time to slowly get used to the change. You may want to start by introducing multiple short sessions of separation that do not induce anxiety for your dog. Try leaving the house for just a minute, then increase those minutes slowly over time. Set up a camera so you can monitor your dog and return home if needed. If your dog is typically crated while you are gone, begin by slowly reintroducing crate time. Schedule time for them to be in their crate even if you are still going to be home. Before you leave make sure they have had plenty of potty break time to prevent accidents in the house. Spend time providing your dog with appropriate mental and physical stimulation. A tired dog that has had a “job” to do will be more likely to rest and relax while you’re away.
Mild separation anxiety can be counteracted with something positive that your dog enjoys doing. For example, give them a favorite toy to keep them busy while you’re away or offer a Kong toy stuffed with a favorite treat. Replace the fear of you leaving with something positive. Some dogs react well with distraction of the television on or soft, calming music playing. Diffusing calming pheromones like Adaptil might also help keep your dog calm. Try out some of these techniques before-hand to see what works best for your dog.
In cases of severe separation anxiety, drug therapy might be something to consider. You should discuss all options with your dog’s veterinarian.
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