Our doggy companions tend to be very social creatures. If they could, they would most probably choose to spend all day, every day with you! In current circumstances this is easy to maintain, but what about when you do eventually return to work? Our pups likely have spent the last few months constantly around us, and it might be incredibly difficult for them when the time comes for them to be by themselves again. Implementing ways to help now will be really valuable for your dog when everything does return to normality.
How do I know if my dog is suffering with separation anxiety?
You may notice that they start to worry or panic when you leave for short periods. A trip to the supermarket may cause them to become upset, or they may follow you closely when you leave the room.
If you have a dog monitor, you can look out for the following signs:
- Do they frantically look for items of your clothing or things that you may have touched last?
- Do they scratch the carpet or the door, or jump up at the window?
If you do not have a dog monitor, you can look out for the following signs:
- Have your things moved? Are they damp from being chewed?
- Is your dogs face wet? This can be a sign they have been stress drooling or drinking.
- Does the carpet or door look like it’s been scratched?
What can I do to help?
If your dog follows you everywhere or needs to be close all the time, this could be a sign of “contact addiction.” Help them by shutting a door every time you leave the room.
If they are particularly anxious and are very distressed by a closed door, try a stair gate. This will provide distance whilst still allowing them to see and hear you whilst they learn this new distance.
Make sure your pooch has a bed of their own. Encourage them to use their own bed as this will help combat contact addiction.
Listen and look out for how your dog reacts when you pick up your coat or keys. Do this randomly throughout the day, not necessarily when you need to go out. If they start to panic, simply put the keys back down. At various times, pick the keys up and gradually, your dog should become less reactive to you doing this, allowing you to go out when you need to.
Whilst it’s nice to have the odd doggy snuggle here and there, there are so many ways you can interact with your dog without cuddling or lying next to each other!
Enjoy learning some new training techniques, such as scent work, or play a canine mind game. These are valuable skills for them to have, whilst also reinforcing distancing at the same time!
Try to cut down their attention seeking. Try not to stroke them if they do jump all over you. By petting your dog after they’ve demonstrated anxious behaviour, you are rewarding them, telling them, ‘it’s ok to feel like that, it’s right that you missed me!
If you’re able to work from home, is there another room you can work in away from them for an hour or so. Leave them with their bed and chew toys as these will provide comfort.
Get them hooked on a chew toy. Stuff one of their Kong toys with some of their tasty foods. Let your pup enjoy chewing the toy at random points throughout the day, preferably in their bed or chill area. Let them play by themselves, you want them to be focused entirely on that and not where you are! Make this into a routine so that when you say “chew time!” they know what to expect leaving you with free time to do what you need to do. When they are done with “chew time” take the toy away again. This keeps it as a treat. If you leave it lying around it won’t have the same affect. It may be easier to swap the chew toy for something else so they don’t see you as a “toy snatcher!”
Slow and steady
It is important not to get stressed, frustrated or angry with your dog if they cannot pick up these techniques quickly. We all learn differently. Do not punish them as this may make things worse.
Every dog is different. Seek professional help if necessary.
At Vetsure, we adore all pets that are entrusted to us! There are a lot of things we can help you with regarding caring for your pets, however, do remember that we are not dog behaviour experts! If you notice your dog is struggling to pick up these techniques despite trying for a few weeks, it’s worth getting professional help.
Stress is natural for all animals and you may notice that your cat is becoming stressed with all this extra time at home. We have also written a helpful information article on how to reduce stress in your felines, if you feel your cat may be struggling.
When the time does come to return to work, please ensure you do not leave your pet at home for long periods. It is always recommended to have someone pop in and check up on them throughout the day.
If you are ever unsure what to do, or you are needing help with how to manage your pet, or with a vet emergency, please speak to your vet directly.