The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us greatly. While it’s not the biggest change brought about by the pandemic, working from home has become more common at this point in time.
In all likelihood, spending this much time at home has likely given you more opportunities to bond with your precious pet. Though we wish it occurred under better circumstances, few would complain about spending more time with our dog. Also, we know our dogs are very happy to have us home all day, every day.
But what happens when we return to work? For many dogs, it leads to developing separation anxiety – a fear that you’ll never come home once you leave. For some, returning to the office will become necessary sooner rather than later.
We invited Lise Lausiva, owner of Paws Afoot and a Separation Anxiety Specialist, to add her expertise to the points below:
“How can you tell if your dog might be suffering from separation? Set up a camera or use your computer to watch your dog for the following telltale signs”.*
Your dog might not show every symptom but if you see several of these behaviors occur while you’re gone, they are enough reason to seek out a, professional, positive dog trainer who specializes in separation anxiety.
As a pet parent, you need to help your dog reestablish their normal routine before you return your normal routine of leaving for work. You can do that now by following the tips featured in this article.
(1) Establish a Routine
You’ll be busy again once you return to the office. The result – you won’t be able to feed or walk your dog whenever you want to.
Get ahead of that potential problem by establishing a set time for eating and walking for your dog and stick to that.
(2) Return to Shorter Walks and Play Time
Speaking of walks, have they gotten longer since you’ve been working from home? Your dog may have gotten used to lengthy walks because you have more time for them. Start reducing the time slightly each day so your dog is still satisfied with the walk even if it’s shorter.
(3) Start Distancing Yourself from Fido
If your dog has gotten used to being everywhere with you, he may be hit hard by separation anxiety once you go back to work. Address that problem now by practicing some distancing with your dog.
Start to work in one room and tell your dog to stay in another. As hard as it is, you may also have to tell your dog to sleep in his bed more as opposed to curling up next to you all the time. In the long run, it will help your dog adjust to your absence.
(4) Start making short departures
Help your dog to adjust to your departures by starting to leave your dog for short periods of time. Set up a video recording with screen focused on the area your dog will be in when you leave.
Start with a short, five minutes departure. When you return, watch your video to check for any signs of anxiety from your dog. If they did well, start to add more time to leaving your dog alone. If your dog doesn’t settle down after a few minutes and you see stress signals of prolonged anxiety, it’s time to call in a separation anxiety specialist”.
(5) Normalize Riding in Vehicles
You probably haven’t spent a lot of time driving over the past few weeks and that likely means your dog has not been traveling too. Start to take those car rides again with your dog so that he/she can get used to them. That will come in handy if a trip to the vet is needed sometime soon.
(6) Teach/Reteach Proper Behavior Around Other Dogs
Spending so much time at home may have caused your dog to forget how to behave properly around their fellow canines. You cannot let that issue go unaddressed as it may lead to your pet developing bad behaviors. Take the time to go to a nearby park where your dog can socialize with others to counteract this potential issue. “Check out other options to help your dog ease into being alone again such as taking him or her to a doggy daycare for two or three days a week or having your dog spend the day with a favorite dog buddy”.*
(7) Give Your Dog Interactive Toys
Your dog may find it boring at home without you around for much of that day. While an interactive toy cannot completely make up for your absence, it can still help your pet pass the time. “Not only do these toys help them pass the time, they also give your dog’s brain a good workout as they try to figure out how to get the treats out of the toys. Here are some suggestions for “work-to-eat” favorite toys with links to each of them: A stuffed and frozen Kong, a Kong Wobbler, a Kong Tiltz, a Busy Buddy Twist ‘n Treat, the Pickle Pocket or the Busy Buddy Bristle Bone. Also, Lise highly recommends Bully Sticks and other long-term chews as chewing is a way dogs relieve their anxiety”.*
(8) Stay Relaxed Whenever You Have to Leave
According to the American Kennel Club, your dog may react to a specific situation by first looking at how you’re handling things. If you show that leaving home is hard for you, he/she will sense that and may struggle as well. Return to your normal departure habits when you left for work.
(9) Decide Length Between Bathroom Breaks
Before returning to work, determine how long Fido can last before needing a bathroom break. Start out by letting him out for a sufficient amount of time in the morning then take him out four hours later for another break and finally, once before bedtime. If he does well with that schedule, lengthen the times between potty breaks to 6 hours and again, once before bedtime. “Dogs need a potty break every 4 – 6 hours at the longest, so even if your dog can hold it for 8-10 hours, they’re extremely uncomfortable. (Imagine if you had to hold it for 10 hours straight almost every day – yikes!)”. Ask someone or hire a dog walker to stop by mid-day to let Fido outside.
(10) Hire a Dog Walker
If your dog is having a hard time adjusting to your return to the office, it may wise to look into hiring a dog walker. A dog walker is obviously no substitute for you, but he/she can still help cheer up your pet as you work. On top of that, dog walkers can also help get your pet the right amount of exercise on those days when you have to rush out the door early in the morning. Give your dog some company as he/she gets adjusted to your return to the office. Contact TAILored Pet Services to provide that companionship you’re seeking for your pet by calling/texting 425-923-7791.
After getting the chance to spend so much time with you these past few weeks, seeing you leave for work again everyday maybe hard for your dog. By following the tips above, you can ease your dog into a new normal and keep him/her happy.
If these tips are not helping your dog adjust, contact Lise Lausiva, CCS and owner of Paws Afoot Dog Training. Lise is a Certified Separation Anxiety Specialist who has helped many dogs learn to enjoy a calm and happy experience at home alone through a simple step-by-step training program. If you need help with your dog’s anxiety, contact her at Paws Afoot.
*Quotes provided by Lise Lausiva