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How to Prevent Dog Separation Anxiety While You’re Getting Back To Work

by | Jul 16 2020

For the last several months, people across the world have been to working from home. While many have found the adjustment to be challenging, one of the upsides is our dogs have been loving all the extra quality time they’re getting.

 

But now, with Covid-19 measures lifting and most people returning to work, it’s not hard to see why this might be upsetting for our furry friends. Many of you have real concerns about your dogs struggling with anxiety now that you’re leaving the house for long periods of time again, but there are things you can do to help.

 

Separation Anxiety and Dogs: The Basics

Separation anxiety is a common issue for a lot of dogs. In fact, some research suggests that up to 72.5 per cent of dogs express anxiety-like behaviours on a regular basis.

 

A common misconception is that small dogs are the only ones that can struggle with severe separation anxiety, but that’s definitely not the case. Any breed of dog can experience separation anxiety, but some are more prone to it than others.

 

The following are dog breeds most likely to feel anxious and act out when left alone for long periods of time:

  • German Shepherds
  • Australian Shepherds
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Vizsla
  • Bichon Frise
  • Toy Poodle
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Border Collie
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Havanese
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • King Charles

 

As you can see from this list, dogs of all sizes and types may experience anxiety, which is why it’s important to address it before you go back to work.

 

What Causes Separation Anxiety?

There are a lot of factors that can contribute to separation anxiety in dogs, and it’s often caused by a combination of factors. Beyond their breed, some other factors that can play a role include the following:

  • Boredom
  • A desire to go outside
  • Loud noises, and noises coming from outside
  • A fear of something in the house
  • A history of being abandoned or surrendered to a shelter
  • Sudden changes in schedule
  • Changes in residence
  • Changes in household membership (someone moving away, someone new moving in, etc.)

 

Clearly, one of the more significant causes separation anxiety is change. If you dog’s anxiety has been triggered by significant changes in the past, then it’s likely that you returning to work could also be anxiety-inducing for your dog.

 

Signs of Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety looks different for every dog. There are some common signs that you might notice when you leave your dog alone for long periods of time that point to separation anxiety, though, including these:

  • Barking and/or howling
  • Urinating/defecating in the house
  • Chewing/digging/other destructive behaviours
  • Escaping or attempting to escape
  • Pacing
  • Coprophagia (eating their own excrement)

 

Medical Conditions and Anxiety Behaviours

Before you decide that your dog is dealing with separation anxiety, it’s important to rule out potential medical issues. This is especially important if your dog’s primary anxiety behaviour is urinating in the house. There are other health problems besides anxiety that can cause this, including the following:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Weak sphincter
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Genital abnormalities
  • Medication side effects

 

If your dog doesn’t have a history of separation anxiety and is urinating in the house when left alone, be sure to contact your vet and speak to them about ruling out these health conditions.

 

How to Prevent Dog Separation Anxiety

If you’re expecting your dog to experience separation anxiety, there are things you can do to make your transition back to work as painless as possible for them. There are lots of steps you can take to make the process easier on your dog and help them stay calm while adjusting to their new normal.

 

Here are some effective strategies to try:

 

Gradually Create Distance

If your dog is used to you being home 24/7 and then you suddenly up and leave for 8+ hours one day, there’s a good chance they’re going to feel anxious. To prepare them for this, start slowly creating distance. Leave them outside alone for a few minutes or go to another room and close the door.

 

Over time, gradually increase the amount of time you spend away from them so they feel more comfortable being alone again. You can also try leaving the house yourself too for short and then longer periods of time too, so they can adjust to the action of you leaving.

 

Give Them Lots of Exercise

Your dog will be less likely to act out when left alone if they’ve had plenty of exercise. Make sure your dog has opportunities to burn off their nervous energy before you leave them. Go for a walk, play outside, or let them run around in the garden, for example. This also gives them a chance to go to the bathroom and helps to minimise the risk of accidents in the house, too.

 

Dogs and Fireworks: Anxiety Medication

Vet IQ Serene-UM 
Recommended by vets. Vet IQ Serene-UM is a natural supplement that helps your dog or cat with anxiety, reducing stress without sedating your pet. Available in calming dropscalming tablets, or Xtra calming tablets

 

Invest in Engaging Toys

If your dog feels bored with you out of the house, they’ll be more prone to destructive behaviours and other signs of separation anxiety. Consider buying them some engaging toys to distract them and keep them busy while you’re at work.

There are lots of puzzles and other mentally stimulating toys that are made to help anxious dogs get their energy out in a healthy way.

 

Provide Background Noise

Being left alone in a totally silent house can be a bit unsettling for dogs, especially if they’ve been used to a certain amount of noise over the last several months. Try leaving some music playing at a low volume while you’re gone, or turn the radio on and keep the sound turned down low.

 

Leave Reminders of Yourself

Leave your dog some reminders of yourself that will help them to feel comforted. This could be a shirt from your laundry hamper or a blanket that you use often. Pick something that has your scent on it to put your pooch at ease.

 

Manage Your Own Anxiety

Make sure to take steps to manage your own anxiety. Dogs are very sensitive and can pick up your feelings. If you’re worried about going back to work and your dog senses it, they’ll be more likely to feel anxious, too, even if they don’t know exactly what is happening.

Take deep breaths, move around in a calm manner, and talk in a soothing voice. If you act as though everything is normal, your dog will be less likely to get worked up when you leave.

 

Take Care of Your Dog

Transitioning back to a more traditional work setup is going to be difficult for a lot of us. It’ll be even harder, though, to know that our dogs are feeling anxious without us around as much as we have been for the last few months.

 

If you have concerns about how to prevent dog separation anxiety hopefully you’ve found the tips listed above helpful, but make sure to speak to your vet if your pet doesn’t respond well to any of these strategies.

 

Dogs and Fireworks: Anxiety Medication

Vet IQ Serene-UM 
Recommended by vets. Vet IQ Serene-UM is a natural supplement that helps your dog or cat with anxiety, reducing stress without sedating your pet. Available in calming dropscalming tablets, or Xtra calming tablets

 

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