DOGS | PETS | ANIMAL WELFARE
What Separation Anxiety in Dogs Looks Like
Symptoms and ways to help them cope
In today’s modern age of technology, where we have cameras to watch our pets while we’re away, we can see our dogs having separation anxiety through a screen.
All dogs have a different way of expressing their anxiety. From barking to pacing to defecating on the floor to tearing the couch to shreds, these are common things a dog with separation anxiety does.
Dogs get bored when left alone for long periods of time. This can lead to distress or even destruction.
While you’re transitioning into going back to the office after working from home, your dog can sense your own anxiety. Your dog has become so used to you being home all the time, they may develop separation anxiety while you’re away at work again.
Here are some important tips on how to help your dog cope with your absence.
When I leave my house, I have a specific script to let my dog know I’m leaving. “I’ll be back, okay? You be a good girl.” I say the same thing every time I leave, but she still shows signs of anxiety. She’ll jump up off the couch and follow me to the door. Sometimes I get home, and she’s lying on the kitchen floor from where she followed me to the back door.
Slowly transition them into letting you leave the house for longer periods of time. I know as I’ve been working from home, I’ve become a homebody. My dog is used to me being home for days at a time, as embarrassing as that is to admit.
Leave for short periods of time and work your way up to being away for longer periods. Do this in 15-minute intervals where you leave the house, sit in your car for the required time, and return, working your way up by 15-minutes each time.
You can also try grabbing your keys and sitting down with the dog to watch television. This way, the dog doesn’t associate you grabbing your keys with their human leaving them.
Try paying a pet sitter or hire a friend or family member to watch the dog.
Dogs get really excited about anything new, so letting them be around someone they aren’t around very much who would play with them during the day could work wonders for the dog.
Make sure this person knows all their favorite games and their favorite walking route. Also, educate the pet sitter on if the dog has any allergies or is not good around other dogs, so they know when they take them for a walk.
A long walk during the day from a pet sitter could really tucker the dog out and calm them down, distracting them from the thought that you’re away!
You could enroll them in doggy daycare. It can get a bit expensive, but your dog will thank you for it! Especially if they love being around other dogs. The social aspect of it could be very productive for your dog. If they don’t like being around other dogs, this may not be reasonable.
You could crate them at home. Some dogs don’t mind being crated and know this is their safe space. Other dogs may show signs of distress in the crate, such as whining, panting, or escaping.
If possible, you should take the dog out on your lunch break. I used to do this with my dog, and she was fine. I think it made her more comfortable seeing me for a few minutes, knowing I would come back after she got into the routine.
Toys and treats
Give them a special toy or treat when you leave, so they associate good things coming from you leaving. Peanut butter in a kong ball is heaven for dogs. They will love you for this.
It can also help take some of the stress off the dog once it becomes a routine and they know you are coming back.
Make sure this toy is only used when you leave and taken away when you return. This way, the dog associates the toy with your departure and is more comfortable with the situation.
Take the dog for a long walk before you leave for work in the morning. A 30-minute walk will calm the dog down and distract them from the fact that you’re leaving because, most likely, they will be asleep and worn out for an hour or so.
Remember to consider your dog's health and endurance before taking them for a 30-minute walk. Try starting at 10 or 15-minute walks and work your way up. All dogs love a good walk.
Some dogs may benefit from anti-anxiety medications prescribed by their veterinarian. Talk to your vet about your dog’s anxiety and see what they suggest. It could depend on how serious the case of anxiety is.
Make sure you treat the dog as a child, do not scold them or get mad at them for having social anxiety. It’s a disorder they can’t help; it’s part of their personality.
Some dogs may grow out of it, and others may have it for the rest of their life. Once you get into a routine with your dog, you will know if this is a serious problem.
Remember, dogs are a part of the family and should be treated as such. They are our fur kids and deserve to be spoiled rotten. Pay attention to your dog’s mental health, and you will have one happy pooch.