How to get your dog ready for your return to work
Separation Anxiety is a Real Thing! Many households have been home for a a few months at least and now you’re making plans to get back to work. But have you thought about how your dog will need to adjust?
Easing dogs out of lockdown is much more complex than you may first think. As owners we need to gradually prepare our dogs for the change so they don't struggle once life returns to a bit more normal for us. All the same actions can be applied after any period of time being at home more with your dog (maternity leave, extended holiday etc).
Separation anxiety is triggered by the removal of something that is a constant in your dogs life (you!). When you suddenly remove this constant dogs can react in different ways. Some could become hyperactive when you are around, others could bark whilst you're around and some will become destructive. It's worth a small investment now to prevent this behaviour.
5 tips to helping your dog get used to being left at home alone
The 5 tips below will help dogs that are likely to have some level of separation anxiety when you return to leaving them for work, golf or any social activity that you long to return to. Even a dog that hasn't previously showed anxiety may benefit from these. All or some can be used so if one doesn't help try another.
Leave your dog home alone NOW for small periods of time
As mad as this sounds start to leave your dog at home whilst you exercise! As we are all now allowed to exercise more than once a day, consider adding an extra walk/cycle/run… whatever is your thing and take this without your dog. It is like being back to the puppy days of leaving them for short periods of time and building up to longer periods of time again. This will pay you back when you do have to return to work.
Don't say goodbye or hello on returning
This sounds heartless but it is actually kind! Making a fuss when you leave or return creates more of an issue of you leaving them alone. On leaving just walk out the door, a great time to go is when they are settled on their bed.
On your return don't make a fuss. Wait until your dog settles down and then reward your dog and stroke them at this point. This will teach them that they only get attention once they are calm again.
These sound hard but you'll see a difference when you do these over a few days
Leave the radio on
Many dogs love company. A radio left on when you go out sounds odd but it allows your dog to hear voices and stop them feeling so alone. And if you know your dog’s preference for a radio station then even better!! 😉
As you leave the house provide your dog a focus
One of the best ways we have found with our own dogs when we go out (we have to walk separately due to the difference in ages and neither like being left) is to leave them something to focus their attention on. This is a distraction technique but duals as mental stimulation so tires them.
There are several different options to do this so picking the one that suits your dog best is important, but also varying this also helps.
Here are some products we use that are inexpensive but help:
- Lickimats – smearing food/paste or having these pre frozen ready for leaving means your dog focuses on this for a period of time and doesn’t notice you leaving. Our dogs love these and tend to sleep after cleaning them spotless!
- Treat toys – perfect for food orientated dogs, they allow you to leave whilst they are focused on releasing the treats. Again these stimulate and pass time.
Give natural calming treats or supplements
If your dog is anxious much of the time and more so when you go out, there are a few different natural calming treats and supplements that you can now give to your dog. They gently calm your dog using ingredients such as Chamomile. Trying these ahead of returning to work can be helpful so you can increase the amount given (not exceeding maximums of course) as you start to leave them more again at home.
Get them a friend
No don’t panic I’ve not gone mad…. If your dog is showing distressing signs when you leave them such as howling or incessant barking, they may be comforted by believing another dog is with them. Introduced in the correct way, a Snuggle Puppy can become their best friend and allows them to believe they are not alone. With their strong heartbeat and warmth these puppy’s provide someone to snuggle up to. Have a read in the reviews here as this is not only purchased for puppies but with many owners of dogs with separation anxiety.
We ourselves first used the Snuggle Puppy when our then 13 year old Labrador lost her (same litter) sister. She would howl stood in the middle of the room when we went out. After providing her a Snuggle Puppy she would settle down with “Biscuit” and was calm when we returned. A life saver for us and for her.
It certainly is strange times for us… but it will have been for your dogs too. They will have loved having you all around more, but now it is time to return to work and going out more socially, they will feel it’s strange for them now too. Helping them through this time will make it less stressful for us humans too.
As with all of these ideas, make sure your dog will not then destroy anything you choose to leave them with. Try toys or comforters whilst you are around initially. No toy will withstand a determined dog!