How to Help Your Dog with Separation Anxiety During the Pandemic
Millions of people have worked from home for several months now due to the Coronavirus pandemic. That means millions of dogs have gotten used to being with their people 24 hours a day. So what happens when we all have to go back to work, and our dogs are left alone for the first time in a long time? They could suffer from separation anxiety, which happens when dogs become distraught because of separation from their parents. Whether it’s an old dog who has adjusted to his family being around all the time, or a puppy who doesn’t know any different, all these doggies are going to have to cope.
So what are symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs? Mostly destructive or aggravated behaviors like excessive whining, howling, chewing, pacing, drooling, panting, digging or even urinating or defecating.
Here is a list of how you can help your dog cope with a mild to moderate case of separation anxiety.
Slowly introduce more alone time to your dog
Leading up to going back into the office full-time, make sure your dog spends an hour or two alone each day, building up duration as you go. Slowly getting him used to alone time will help to transition him into being home alone for extended periods of time. Whether that means you work from your bedroom for a few hours while he stays in the living room, or you go to a coffee shop followed by a trip to the grocery store, the more you can leave him alone now, the better off he’ll be in the future.
Exercise your dog before you leave
Before you leave for the day, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. Take him for a long walk, play fetch, tug-of-war, etc. If you tire him out before you leave, he’ll be more likely to take a long nap while you’re away, and less likely to whine and cry for you.
Don’t exaggerate greetings or departures
When you leave the house, set him up with a cozy rest area and exit without fanfare. The same goes for when you arrive back home—don’t greet your dog until he is calm. Then offer him praise.
Associate your absence with a positive experience
Before you leave, offer your dog a long-lasting Dental+ chew stick, high-value treats like Soft Chews+ buried in a snuffle mat, kibble in a food puzzle or his favorite chew toy. It will help to keep him happy and mentally stimulated, distracting him from the fact that you’re gone. And when he realizes you’ve left, he’ll be more settled and comfortable being alone.
Giving him something to do will also deter him from destructive chewing (like on the leg of your dining table), and provide him with a positive association with your absence (“When mom and dad leave, I get a treat and a puzzle!”).
Should you crate your dog when you leave for the day?
If your dog is comfortable in his crate and feels safe there, it’s not a bad idea to let him relax in the crate while you’re gone. It will also give you peace of mind that he isn’t destroying the house. It’s also a good idea to crate your dog if he can’t be trusted not to destroy the house while you’re out.
But if crating your dog causes him more stress and anxiety, confinement isn’t your best bet. Instead, try to detain him in a specific area using baby gates (if he can’t jump over them).
Try medication or natural supplements
If your dog seems to be suffering from severe separation anxiety, talk to your vet. Your vet may recommend a medication to help treat your pup, such as amitriptyline, which is used to treat behavior disorders, or alprazolam, a sedative. Both of these drugs require a prescription, but are safe for most dogs.
You can also try natural remedies and supplements, such as CBD oil, homeopathic remedies, St. John’s Wart, essential oils and more. For more natural solutions for your dog’s separation anxiety, check out this list from Dogs Naturally Magazine.