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Preparing Your Dog for Post-COVID Separation Anxiety

by Geoff Works |

Since the start of the pandemic, you’ve spent most of your time indoors. As a result, you’ve had more time to bond with your pets. 

But since your dogs have been so used to having you around the house, what are they going to do when things go back to normal and you have to go back to work?

When this happens, they might experience canine separation anxiety. This is a serious issue you’ll need to prepare for, especially before returning to office-based work. 

Read on to know helpful tips on how to deal with separation anxiety in puppies and dogs.

What is separation anxiety in dogs?

Dogs and separation anxiety are two completely different terms that might seem somewhat weird when used together. But the truth is, separation anxiety in dogs exists. 

Your dog can exhibit anxious or problematic behaviors when separated from the people they’re attached to. You may notice signs of discomfort such as shaking, pacing around, and frequent changes in body posture when left alone.

It’s important to know the difference between separation anxiety and normal dog behavior to know if your dog requires treatment or medication. For example, even though it’s normal for pets to show signs of boredom when left alone, extreme stress or anxiety could take a toll on their physical and mental health. 

What causes dog separation anxiety?

Dog separation anxiety is often caused by the withdrawal of attachment from an owner. It can hit particularly hard if an owner and his dog spend significant time around one another. 

Consider how pet parents and their dogs are together almost 24/7 because of the lockdown restrictions and work-from-home set-up. It’s understandable how dogs would feel unhappy being away from their master.

Traumatic incidents could also happen, like a pet owner getting injured and hospitalized. When this happens, they end up spending less time with their furry companion. In turn, it could prompt feelings of separation anxiety. The worst that could happen is if the owner actually passes on. 

What are the signs of separation anxiety in dogs?

Separation anxiety causes behavioral changes that you can notice easily. Below is a list of signs of separation anxiety in puppies and dogs. 

  • Excessive barking and howling

If you’ve been with your dog for several months or years, you’ll immediately notice the difference between a normal bark and stressful howl. A canine who experiences separation anxiety might persistently howl when left alone, for instance. Anxious dogs can show this kind of behavior when separated from pet parents.

  • Destructive chewing & digging

Separation anxiety can also come in the form of destructive habits like chewing on door frames, window sills, and other furniture pieces to let out the frustration. Moreover, your dog may dig at doorways and doors, which could cause injuries to its joints and muscles.

  • Escaping from the house

Since they don’t want to be left alone, pets with separation anxiety want to escape and follow in the footsteps of their beloved master. This behavior can result in cuts, scrapes, abrasions, broken bones, and damaged nails. When taken too far, anxiety can have a serious impact on physical well-being.

  • Urinating & defecating

Potty-trained pets experiencing separation anxiety may forget your instructions and fail to urinate and defecate properly. In turn, this could result in a messy kennel or play area. In some cases, anxious dogs could even consume their feces, which could lead to serious problems with their health.

How can I prepare for canine separation anxiety?

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize separation anxiety among dogs. Follow these tips so you and your dog will be prepared should you be separated when you return to your office-based work.

  • Slowly ease back to your old routine

Since the pandemic has changed your routine, it’s advisable to go back to your old schedule before the quarantine started. Your former way of life may involve waking up early, leaving for work, then returning home before dinner. Train your dog to get used to this type of routine so they won’t end up missing you too much when you’re not around.

  • Schedule independent playtime

You can also introduce your dog to independent activities, such as playing with toys and eating healthy treats. It’s best to give these treats right before leaving the house so they’ll look forward to seeing you again at the end of the day when you get home.

  • Set physical boundaries

Encourage your pets to spend time in their bed or play area. You can also let them run around the fenced yard. This approach will slowly build their independence and minimize feelings of separation anxiety. Make sure to give them treats to make them feel rewarded.

  • Make sure your pet gets used to you leaving

Before following a new routine post-pandemic, it’s helpful to test your dog’s behavior whenever you leave the house. Do you notice excessive barking or howling? Do you hear scratching noises behind the door? Take note of these behaviors and should you observe destructive manners, make sure you address the issue immediately.

How to deal with separation anxiety in dogs?

What should you do if your pet experiences separation anxiety? Follow these tips so you can deal with it the right way.

  • Exercise with your dog

Before leaving the house, make sure to exercise with your dog. This way, they can burn off excess energy, helping them stay relaxed even when you leave for work. Simple physical activities such as walking and playing fetch, provide enough exercise for pets. These exercises can also help maintain their overall well-being.

  • Consider crate training

A crate encourages your dog to enjoy independence since it offers a quiet place to relax. Include toys and other interesting objects to play with to serve as distractions while you’re away. It’s still important to observe pet behavior inside the crate, though. This way, you'll know if there are other actions needed to manage their anxiety.

  • Provide medications

Extreme separation anxiety may require medications. In some cases, when your pet acts out, it may need medicines for wound care if it gets injured. Consult a veterinarian immediately for prescriptions. Lastly, make sure to communicate only with a board-certified specialist to ensure your dog’s safety.

Give Your Dog the Emotional Support It Deserves

It’s only natural for dogs to experience separation anxiety. Just remember to provide the emotional support they need and assure them that you’ll be around no matter what happens.

Need more tips on how to take care of the mental and physical health of your pet? Check out the LickSleeve blog.

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