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Is working from home worsening your dog’s separation anxiety?

During the majority of this last year, many of us have adapted to a “work from home” lifestyle. But conducting video meetings in pajama bottoms isn’t the only new habit we’ve become accustomed to. Many pet owners have been able to spend more time with their pup throughout the day, meaning more walks, more attention, and more cameos in Zoom meetings. And while being able to get in some extra cuddle time with your dog throughout the day has been comforting, could all this extra attention actually be causing a slow increase in your dog’s separation anxiety? Eventually, most of us will return to work, and at that time, we need to make sure our pups are able to handle the adjustment. 


Even dogs with no history of separation anxiety can develop symptoms when there has been a significant change in their life. It is important to pay attention to your dog’s behavior when you do leave the house. Some common signs that your dog may be experiencing separation anxiety are:


  • Chewing or scratching on door frames, windowsills, or other household objects

  • Incessant barking, whining, or howling

  • Potty accidents inside the home or in unusual places

  • Escape attempts from their crate or backyard


If you think your dog could be developing separation anxiety, don’t worry too much! Dogs are smart and adaptable, and there are several ways to help them cope and adjust to being independant. 


Plan Ahead

Interactive toys, soothing background music, and treat puzzles can be useful tools in helping your dog stay entertained while being left alone. Introducing these items to your pup when you are at home, will help them build a positive association with playing solo. Choosing to hire a dog walker is another great way to break up the hours your dog will spend alone. And just like the toys, if you introduce a dog walker into the mix while you are still working from home, then there’s a better chance your pup will associate these walks with happy, calm times. They will look forward to these walks with a familiar face, which will ease their anxiety when their owners aren’t present. 


Practice Makes Perfect

The best way to get your dog used to you not being around, is to simply leave the house! Mask  up and take your laptop to a coffee shop and work there for a few hours, or add a half hour onto your grocery store trip by taking the long way home. The more your dog sees you come and go, the more they will get used to the process. Your pup will take your lead on most situations, so remaining calm and casual when you do leave the house, whether it’s for fifteen minutes or four hours, will help ease your dog’s anxiety about when you will return. 


If your dog is still experiencing difficulty adjusting to their “new normal”, you may want to speak with your trusted veterinarian about natural, over the counter anti-anxiety medicine. This could help acutely ease their stress while they get used to the routine.


Patience and Consistency

It takes time for any of us to adapt to a new way of doing things, and the same goes for our furry companions. Patience is key when teaching your pet to embrace independence. For best results, make it as fun and casual of an experience as possible, by remaining calm when you come and go, and leaving your pup with toys that will stimulate their brains and sense of play. And of course, reward good behavior with reassuring pets when you get home!