Tips for Preventing Separation Anxiety in Dogs After the Coronavirus Lockdown
Without a doubt our woofs love having us at home with them. Lockdown has probably been a dream come true for them, albeit a huge change to their normal routine. But with lots of us starting to return to the office and our pre-lockdown routines, this dream will eventually come to an end which may lead to separation anxiety in your beloved dog.
Separation anxiety in a dog can manifest itself as incessant barking or howling, whining, trembling, soiling indoors or destructive behaviour. It’s more likely to occur in dogs that have had previous anxiety issues, but a drastic change in routine can cause any dog to show signs of anxiety.
Here are some tips to help you and your woof adjust to yet another shift in routine. We’d highly recommend starting these before your planned absence from the home and not leaving it till the last minute as that is likely to increase anxiety.
1. Reintroduce your pre-lockdown routine
Remember when you used to leave your woof at home while you went to work? You will have had a set routine that you were all used to, so start bringing that back gradually. Perhaps a walk at the same time as before, reintroducing any dog walkers or sitters you used.
2. Start to build up time away from your dog
It will be an enormous ask for any dog to go from being with their owner 24/7 to suddenly being left alone for hours on end. Start off with short bursts of 30 minutes to an hour, popping out on your own and not making a big fuss when you go. Gradually build up the time so your dog is secure in the knowledge that you will be coming back.
3. Practice some alone time
As well as leaving your dog alone in the house, try giving your dog some time on their own in a separate room or part of the house. You could leave your dog downstairs while you’re busy upstairs. Again, they will begin to recognise that you will come back to them.
4. Make a safe space in the house for your dog
Your woof might have got used to lying next to wherever you are sitting. Make sure there’s a special place just for them that no one else goes in – if your dog is crated, this would be the perfect place. Make sure it’s in a relatively undisturbed spot and is cosy and comfortable, perhaps adding in a t-shirt or piece of your clothing for extra familiarity.
5. Make sure your dog is comfortable
Before leaving the house, be sure your dog has had some exercise and been allowed to toilet. That way they can settle when you’re gone. Exercise is always a great way to relax and tire out a dog so make time for a pre-work walk.
6. Provide enough stimulation
Keeping your dog’s mind occupied will help counteract anxiety. Getting their brain working will encourage rest and sleep and all dogs love to play. Hiding treats around the house will give them something to focus on, as will a toy stuffed with their favourite treat, such as peanut butter.
7. Watch out for signs of anxiety
Make sure you know the signs for separation anxiety, such as destructive behaviour, vocalisation and toileting. If you’re not sure if your dog is anxious, you could try using a camera whilst you are out and check if and when any behaviour kicks in. You will then know if you need to take any steps, such as introducing white noise, keeping curtains or blinds closed or asking someone to pop in to see your dog during the day.
Remember that any anxiety-related behaviours aren’t signs of naughtiness and shouldn’t be punished. You don’t want your dog to start fearing your return. And even if you are trying to get your woof used to being alone again, don’t withhold affection. Keep cuddling and stroking as usual otherwise your dog may go out of their way to get attention, resulting in a different set of behaviours!
There are calming remedies available for anxiety which may or may not have an effect on your dog but it is always worth seeking vet advice if you are worried about your dog being anxious.