By Veronica Rigatti, Canine Behavior Specialist
During the pandemic, you likely fell into one of two categories: those who enjoyed being home or those who went a little stir crazy. Whichever category you fall into, your pets certainly enjoyed all of the extra one-on-one time! But how will they feel once you go back to the office or return to other activities, leaving them alone for most of the day?
Whether you have had your dog for several years or recently welcomed a new addition, you may have concerns about them developing separation anxiety when you do return to your normal schedule. If you had your dog before the pandemic and they didn’t have any issues with separation, they shouldn’t be affected too much. You may need to slowly ease them back into the routine, but they may welcome the alone time and returning to their own normal routine! If you have a new puppy and this stay-at-home lifestyle is all they know (or you have a dog that already had separation anxiety) don’t worry because now is a great time to work on training!
First, set up a camera and take a short trip outside the house to see how your dog reacts to being alone. Were they comfortable with your departure or were they nervous? Doing an assessment of their behavior as a baseline will determine where you may need to start.
You can begin by simply separating yourself from your dog while you are both in the house. Set them up with an activity in one room, then go into another room where they cannot have access to you but you can still hear them. This doesn’t need to be for very long … start with 10 minutes then work your way up from there. As your dog’s comfort level grows, you can move on to leaving the house, but staying nearby and occupying yourself with a short activity like yard work. Eventually, you can make your way up to short trips out of the house like a walk or drive around your neighborhood. Make these trips longer each time as long as your dog remains comfortable while you’re gone.
When you do eventually return to the office, set up a virtual call with your dog! Leave the camera on so you can keep an eye on how they are doing. If you are having trouble with training or your dog has severe anxiety, you should contact a certified positive reinforcement trainer for help. You can also find helpful resources on separation anxiety at malenademartini.com.
We wish we could spend all of our time with our pets, but it is completely normal and acceptable for them to have some alone time. With these helpful tips, you can make the return to normal stress-free for both you and your pet!