How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Your Dog When Returning to Work

Whilst many of us are enjoying being at home with our dogs, some of us are also wondering how our dogs will behave when we return back to work. We're seeing various questions including: My dog is already showing signs of separation anxiety when I leave the house for essentials, what do I do? Will my dog gain separation anxiety from being around me for so long? My dog has separation anxiety and we previously formed a routine but now that’s broken, what do I do?

Whilst it may be a struggle to form a routine with such restrictions, there are a few things you can start putting into place to ensure your dog transitions smoothly when you do go back to work.

Firstly, here are some common signs of separation anxiety to keep an eye out for with your own dog:

- Barking, whining and howling when you leave.
- Chewing, digging and being destructive.
- Increased heart rate, heavy breathing, panting and excessive drooling.
- A sudden need to go to the toilet.
- Pacing in an obsessive pattern.
- Scratching doors, door frames and carpets.
- Jumping up on windowsills to find a way to get out.

Do ensure you speak to your vet to rule out any medical problems and sometimes accidents in the house or odd behaviour can be a sign of infection or a health condition.

But if you are noticing that your pet is showing signs of separation anxiety or you simply don’t want them to get too attached to you working from home, here are some things you can do:

Develop a Morning Routine - A Walk First Thing

Developing a morning routine that you can maintain once you go back to work is essential to reducing anxiety in your dog. Taking them for a brisk walk first thing can help your dog expel the energy they’ve built up from a good night’s sleep. Make your walks more rigorous by introducing a dog backpack with extra weight in. The idea is for them to come back exhausted so you can leave them in a quiet resting mode whilst away.

Reduce The Attention and Give Them Some Downtime

We’re all guilty of it. Especially since many of us are indulging in the fact we get to spend a lot more time than normal with our furry friends. But this can have a huge impact on your dog developing separation anxiety.

Showering them with a large amount of attention that they won’t get once you’re back at work can give dogs a false sense of security. Plus lead to a greater risk of separation anxiety when owners eventually return to normal working life. By controlling how often you spoil your dog with attention and allowing them to have periods of downtime to themselves, you’re providing them with the basic steps to a smoother transition.

Create a ‘Leaving Regime’

This one is pretty important. If your dog is developing separation anxiety or they already have it, creating a routine that sends your dog small signals to when you’re leaving can help reduce the anxiety. Dogs pick up on certain repeated routines you perform (sometimes subconsciously!) and when you break those actions they can become more anxious.

For example, they haven’t seen you put your shoes on and now suddenly the front door is closing etc. Keeping a ‘leaving regime’ can settle your dog into knowing that you’re leaving. Whether you’re popping outside to your car, going into the garage and to the shops for essentials, practise performing your ‘leaving for work’ routine to get them into that cycle.

Soothing Sounds

Now, this is something many dog owners do before they leave the house and lots of them swear by it! That’s not to say that the soothing sounds of waves are sending your dog into a deep hypnotic sleep. But that constant sound can reduce other more spontaneous and unfamiliar sounds that may unsettle your dog. Leaving the radio or tv on is a great way to help relax your dog and can be something you introduce into your ‘leaving routine’ so they know once the radio goes on its downtime.

Time Apart

We know it’s hard during this time to have time apart from your dog when we have to stay home. However, there are a few opportunities you can take to ensure your dog has some time alone. Opportunities that you can do at home such as;

- Washing your car.
- Short walks without the dog.
- Mowing the lawn/ sitting in the garden.
- Tinkering in the garage.
- Organising the shed.
- Even being in a separate part of the house.

All these opportunities can be as short as 30 minutes to 1 hour breaks to simply introduce or reintroduce time apart from your dog.

Returning

Being calm when you return home can reduce the tension your dog has built up whilst you’ve been away. It can be hard but actually ignoring your dog for a few minutes whilst you enter the door can be beneficial to reduce their over-excitement combined with anxiety from when you left.

The trick is to stay calm like arriving and departing isn’t a big deal and your dog will soon learn from your body language that there’s nothing to worry about. These are just a few things you can do whilst in quarantine to ensure you can control your dog’s separation anxiety or prevent them from gaining it.

Some of these tips are harder to do than others but even just practising a couple is a step in the right direction for an easy transition period for when you go back to work.

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