Separation Anxiety in Dogs After Lockdown
With so many of us working from home, it has meant that we have been able to spend more time than ever with our beloved four-legged friends! Although a great opportunity to bond with our pets, and spend quality time training, exercising, and playing, there is a growing concern for pet owners regarding how our animals will cope when we go back to work. It is difficult to predict what kind of impact this period of time will have had on our pets as we experience lockdown beginning to lift. For those of us with young puppies or recent rescues who have only ever known us to be around 24/7, the obvious question is whether or not they will suffer with separation issues as things begin to return to normal.
What is Separation Anxiety in Animals and How Does it Present Itself?
Although cats have been known to suffer from separation anxiety, the experience is much more common among dogs. The RSPCA defines separation related behaviour as “behaviour that only occurs when the dog is separated from their owner and in many cases is because they are feeling distressed”. The main indicators include destructive behaviour, unwanted toileting or reports of howling or barking. But there are many other signs that might not be as clear. Research suggests that up to 80% of dogs will suffer to some extent when left alone, but many of these will not demonstrate the obvious behaviours. Remember that dogs are pack animals. Despite being domesticated, this group mentality hasn’t changed, so most dogs will prefer it when their humans are home, and the ‘pack’ is together.
How to Limit the Risk of Your Pooch Developing Separation Anxiety?
It is impossible to explain to a dog “I’ll be back soon” in order to ease anxiety, and so preparing them for time alone is key to preventing separation related behaviour.
- Start by leaving your dog on its own in another room of the house. Safety proof the room by removing anything that could be chewed or cause harm to your dog while unsupervised. Do this for a short period of time initially and gradually build it up to a couple of hours.
- Give your dog something to do as you increase the time spent on its own. Examples include Kongs, slow feeders and chew toys. These enrichment activities act as a pacifier and build on the positive association of being left alone.
- Get a suitable routine in place for when you return to work. If they are fed an appropriate diet, getting the right exercise, and being given appropriate stimulation and training, they should spend plenty of time sleeping throughout the day.
These simple tips should help reduce the likelihood of separation anxiety occurring in your dog when normal work routines return. Go at a pace with which your dog feels comfortable and if you are worried, we recommend installing a pet camera. It’s a great way to check for the less obvious indicators of stress.