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Animal Friends Blog


Back to work after lockdown: how to prevent separation anxiety

In partnership with the vet experts at Joii Pet Care

Our dogs will have spent more than a year with us being at home with them due to the various restrictions that meant families weren’t able to head to the office or go to school. As part of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, the advice to work from home could be lifted in June with children being phased back into their school lives from March.

When the restrictions are finally lifted, our lives will change significantly with our dogs also having to adjust to the return of “normal” routines. This will be incredibly difficult for the puppies and young dogs who haven’t yet experienced life out of lockdown. Luckily, there are steps you can take now to help make things easier on your dog when it comes to returning to work.

What is separation anxiety in dogs?

Anxiety is a normal and healthy emotion in moderation, but dogs can also develop serious issues when they suddenly or often have to spend time apart from their owners or are left entirely alone. The anxiety experienced is the result of real stress, making some dogs destructive, start to relieve themselves indoors and bark or howl all day.

These behaviours are not ideal for you or your neighbours, and knowing your dog is feeling overwhelmed by the stressful situation they have no control over is equally as distressing. You should always speak to your vet if your dog is displaying any stress-related signs as they can sometimes harm themselves while trying to find you around the house.

How can I prepare my dog for the new routine?

Every dog is different but preparing them in advance can help prevent separation anxiety, here are just some things you can start doing now to help them prepare and start to feel comfortable when left alone. Gradually changing the timings

At the moment, you might be able to take your dog for a walk during the day or feed them after the day’s first meeting. You will need to slowly change these timings to align with your post-lockdown office hours so that your dog is ready for the new daily schedule once you’re back at work.

By slowly shifting the pattern of your routine, you can help them learn how to manage their bathroom breaks, energy levels and when to expect their walks. All dogs are different, especially when it comes to training, so start this as soon as possible so that they have plenty of time to adjust to the changes.

Teach them to spend time alone

There is no doubt that your dog has enjoyed having you home for the past year, but you will need to start preparing them for the time they will be left alone when things are back to normal. You will need to consider your local restrictions before doing this, but it can still be achieved by following current guidelines in your area.

Tasks like doing the weekly food shop, taking your rubbish out, going for a walk on your own are all short activities you can do to help your dog start to understand that even if you leave, you always come back home.

As restrictions ease, these activities can be changed accordingly while the times can slowly be extended.

Using a crate or baby gate

If your dog used to spend their time in a crate, behind a baby gate or in a specific room while you were at work then it’s important to get them used to this before your first day back in the office.

Start small, with only short amounts of time spent in their designated space. Help them feel at ease by providing them with their favourite toy or moving their bed into the new area. By doing this while you’re still at home you will be able to provide treats as a reward for good behaviour or reassurance if your dog might start to feel anxious.

How can I help my dog when they’re home alone?

There are some ways to help your dog relax when home alone, here are our top tips on keeping them happy.

Understanding the problem

There might be some days where your dog seems okay with you leaving, or they didn’t destroy anything while you were out and about. If you’re able to find a pattern to your dog’s behaviour, you might be able to ease their anxiety.

If you recognise that your dog’s anxiety is worst on the days you’re out of the house for a longer period of time, but they can manage without you when you pop to the shop, then you can adapt accordingly.

It’s impossible to be home all the time, but even popping home at lunch, or getting a neighbour or family member to check on your dog can make all the difference to an anxious pooch.

Make time for exercise

Morning routines are hectic enough without having to fit in a dog walk somewhere in-between breakfast and getting dressed, but it can help your dog settle down once you’re gone. You might need to get up a little earlier, but your dog will love the quality time with you before you leave for the day.

If a walk isn’t possible until later in the day, why not provide some mental stimulation while you eat the most important meal of the day? Using a food-dispensing toy to feed them their breakfast or trying to teach them a new trick each morning can help tire them out a little.

Once the restrictions are no longer in place, you may want to look into getting a reputable dog walker to support you and your pooch.

Prepare an area for your dog

When you do leave the house, your dog should be given a safe and secure bit of the house so they can’t hurt themselves if they start to become destructive. By providing a little safe-haven or den for your dog, it can help make them feel safer in their environment without you around. Some dogs might benefit from being crate-trained while others would just appreciate their bed, favourite toys and a few hidden treats dotted around the room.

Stair gates can also help your dog get used to their area while you’re still at home as they’ll be able to see you but won’t be able to be with you.

Use a pet camera

There are several pet cameras on the market that allows owners to interact with their pet while they’re not at home. Each device varies, but some have a treat-dispensing feature while others let you speak to your dog while listening in on them.

These cameras will allow you to check in on your dog throughout the day, without disrupting too much of their day once they’ve settled.

Provide some entertainment

By leaving some activities for your dog to get their nose into while you’re out can help ease some of their boredom, and they might not even notice you were gone at all! Destruction boxes, and fillable, dispensable or chew toys can help keep them from worrying or waiting.

You may also want to explore noise levels when your pet is left on their own, some dogs are more relaxed if a radio is left on quietly as background noise, whereas others may prefer the peace and quiet – and who can blame them!

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Hello, lovely readers, I'm Catrin George. I'm a treat dispenser and walk giver to Marvel, the border collie. I'm here to give you the latest updates and low downs on anything and everything pet related, whether they miaow, woof, or neigh. The blogs will be filled with news, reviews, and charity visits with some discounts and giveaways squeezed in-between. So, keep your eyes peeled here!

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