For the past six weeks, your dog has no doubt been thrilled to have you home all day. But what happens when you go back to work and he feels the sudden aloneness of a too-quiet house? Now is the time to start reinforcing certain behaviors in order to prevent separation anxieties post-quarantine. Here are some suggestions for you to implement immediately:
If you’re still in quarantine —
- Keep up your daily routine as much as possible, i.e. getting up, eating meals, and going to bed according to your normal working times.
- Reinforce your dog’s crate training (if applicable) by crating him in a different room for at least 4 hours per day (you can do 2 hours at a time). And do so during times that you would normally be gone. This will also allow your dog to relax and get used to being apart from you again.
- Give your dog a stuffed kong in his crate, and make sure that is the only time he gets it. This will give him something to look forward to each time, including when you do go back to work. Here is how to stuff a kong properly.
- Put the kong in his crate 10 min before you leave and close the door with your dog waiting outside the crate. You will have a dog sitting by his crate wondering when you are finally going to leave so he can go in the crate and get his kong! Yes, you actually want him to look forward to you leaving so he is not anxious about it.
- Very important: Do not yield to demanding behaviors. If your dog is spending all day asking for playtime, pets, praise, or any form of attention, he could develop over-dependency skills that will be detrimental when you are suddenly no longer home to answer to his every whim. Simply ignore the cuteness asking to play ball or be petted. Once he walks off, you can wait a few minutes THEN call him over to play or pet him if you are free to do so — on your terms, not his.
- Most owners are doing multiple walks per day right now. Make one of these walks for just you so your dog gets used to you leaving the house for at least 30 minutes at a time.
- If you are doing errands yourself or leaving the house for grocery or restaurant pick up, that’s an ideal time to leave your dog home so, again, he gets used to you leaving the house.
- Keep your departures and arrivals calm. You do not want your dog aroused when you leave or come back. Say “Have a good day, Buddy,” and walk out calmly (don’t forget the kong). When you return home, take a few minutes to put your things down, calmly let your dog out of his crate, take him outside to pee, and THEN you can bond and have a greet party!
- If you are still working from home when your favorite coffee shops open back up, work remotely for a few hours so your dog gets used to you being gone longer. Alternatively, when you can go catch up with family members, and leave your dog home then.
- Ask your office if you can have a week or two of coming in part time to allow your dog to acclimate.
Back to Work Full Time
- Hire a pet sitter, even if temporarily, to come in midday for a walk or let out.
- Keep leaving that stuffed kong!
- Exercise your pup well before you leave for work. And keep the last 30 minutes together low-key — that’s a great time for you to drink your coffee, take a shower, clean up, etc. You don’t want to have fun with your dog, then take off and leave him standing there.
In conclusion, be proactive now to prevent issues later! If you have questions about how to help your dog with separation anxiety, email [email protected] to learn more.
Voices contribution by Sylvie Parbus, Trainer and Behaviorist
Topline K9 Solutions