Your Dog & Separation Anxiety: How to Ease Back into Work

While social distancing may have taken a toll on humans, dogs love all that one-on-one time they get to spend with many of us this year. Even if you are not working from home, empty schedules on your days off likely means more time with your pooch on the weekends.

Or, if you are among the thousands of Americans who adopted a fostered dog or purchased a puppy during the quarantine, returning to work may be a particularly challenging experience for dogs since they haven’t be separated from you for a length of time. Read on for some tips on how to help your pet through separation anxiety when you return to work.

What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

Separation anxiety is when dogs are extremely anxious and show behaviors such as barking or whimpering, destruction of things, or having accidents in the house when they are separated from the owners. Even if your dog never exhibited these behaviors before, they might be showing some signs of change behavior when you return to work outside the home after being in quarantine for a few weeks or months.

Separation anxiety in dogs can happen when there’s a change in homes, such as a new member is added to the household – like a baby or another pet  – or there’s a big shift in schedules, like their owner(s) returning to work outside the home.

What are Signs of Separation Anxiety in dogs?

If your dog is showing signs of anxiety when you are about to leave the house and exhibiting some of these other behaviors, he may be having separation anxiety about you returning to work:

– Your Dog Your dog is destroying your property or the dog you left out of.

– Whimpering, crying, barking or howling

– Scratching

– Pacing

– Drooling

– Preventing you from leaving

While you might not notice some of these separation anxiety behaviors, you might hear from a neighbor that your dog was howling or whimpering for hours when you were gone.

How can you Help your Dog with Separation Anxiety?

Luckily, separation anxiety in dogs can usually be remedied at home by working together with your pet to make her feel more comfortable.

Stick to a routine: This may have gone to the wayside while you were working from home or out of work but it is crucial for your dog’s behavior to have a routine. Take her out in the morning for a quick walk, give her food, water and some cuddles and praise before you head out the door for work. Try to keep the schedule consistent when you’re home from work, too.

Ease into it: If you’ve barely been out of each other’s sights for months, try to get your dog used to you being away by going out for two hours, four hours, and six hours to lessen their separation anxiety.

Create a safe place: Establish your dog’s crate as a safe space for her to rest and hang out while you’re away. Think of it as her bedroom that she’s hanging out in when you are gone. Have them spend time in their crates occasionally when you are at home so they are reassured that it’s a positive place.  Give her a training treat when she goes in her crate to reinforce good behavior. If you don’t want to crate them, put your dog in a designated area of the home with gates that restrict him from other areas of the house.

Engage when you get home: When you return home, make sure you spend time playing with them, going on a walk, and giving them a special treat like Old Mother Hubbard X for being a good girl or a good boy.

Give them a special toy while you’re gone: If it’s a puzzle toy with a treat in it they’ll have to work at to get the food, it’ll keep them busy and they’ll have a positive association with the time you’re gone. Take the toy away when you return.

Consider getting a treat throwing product or puppy cam: This separation anxiety tip might be for you, the pet parent, to feel better about your time away. You can talk to your dog through the speaker, keep an eye on them through the camera and tell him that you love him and toss him a treat through the dog treat dispenser.

If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe you might need to reach out to a  Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) for assistance.