Please note, I received compensation in exchange for this blog post. – Tracey Hagan, Pawsitive Purpose Dog Training & Behavior
After 15 months of a pandemic, which took many of us out of the office and into working at home, we are seeing restrictions being lifted and more people are returning to work and other pre-COVID activities.
During COVID, a record number of dogs were adopted from shelters or other locations. Some people saw it as a good opportunity to finally get the dog they always wanted but didn’t have the time to train when they were working outside the home.
Returning to a new normal post-COVID will be a challenge, not only for us but for our dogs. Our dogs have gotten used to everyone being home, which meant more time for walks, playing and attention.
As we return to work, our dogs will be spending more time at home alone, and we are seeing some dogs beginning to display separation anxiety symptoms when their owners are away.
So, how can we help our dogs as we make this transition?
Start now and set up a new routine for when they take their walks, when they eat, when it is time to play and when they can rest. Base the routine on what it will look like when you return to work.
If you plan to leave your dog in a crate when you leave them home, now is the time to start crate training so they can become comfortable being in the crate when you are gone.
You can also begin to practice brief absences from your dog. Go to another room (without your dog following you) and fold laundry for a few minutes, take your trash out, go get the mail or go work in your yard for a little while.
You want to start with small amounts of time in the beginning. Set up a camera (you can use a laptop, tablet, mobile device or your security cameras) to watch your pet when you leave. If they become stressed or anxious, lower the amount of time and begin toggling between short and slightly longer periods of time you leave them alone. We want your dog to have a positive experience by themselves.
You don’t have to train with your dog all day. This could actually make things worse! You would be surprised how helpful just 20 minutes a day will be for your dog.
What are some things to keep in mind?
You want to watch for any sudden behavior changes (this is something you should do ALL the time, not just during a pandemic J). If your dog suddenly starts doing something out of character for them, go see your vet to rule out any underlying medical conditions first.
You also want to make sure your dog is getting enough exercise. We all know physical exercise is important, but mental exercise is also important for your dog.
Giving them something to do will help relieve some stress and anxiety as they use problem solving skills and foraging behavior to solve puzzle toys and feeding toys.
Once you do go back to work, keep your camera up and you can use Zoom to monitor your dogs while you are away to make sure they are doing well. This will help you decrease your own anxiety about leaving your dog home alone.
If you feel you need more help with your dog, please contact me or another professional Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) for help. There is also an online self-guided training called “Mission Possible” to help owners work through basic separation anxiety issues on their own.
Tracey Hagan, is a certified dog trainer at Pawsitive Purpose Dog Training & Behavior. To see her full list of credentials, check out more here.