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Dogs and Separation Anxiety

Prepare your Pup for More Normal Days

Have you noticed your dog being a little needy lately? Has he taken issue when you left the house to run out for errands? Perhaps he’s acting out when you are away from home? While many of us have enjoyed the extra time at home with our furry pals over the past months, your dog has probably relished it even more. While this extra time together has been mutually appreciated, it can create challenges when it is finally time to go back to work.

As most of us are aware, dogs are social animals and thrive in group environments (even if their group is made up of human members). It’s calming for dogs to be with their humans, and the more time they can have with you, the better. Unfortunately, anxiety and stress can arise when you do have to leave dogs behind. Their attachment, even when you are together, can be excessive as well, which can lead to formation of undesirable habits and behavior.

Separation anxiety and destructive behavior may occur when you leave the house without your dog, even for a short time (remember, dogs don’t have the same sense of time as humans). Many have become comfortable knowing you are there with them, and they have fallen out of practice of being alone.  

So, what can you do to make your pal feel better when you leave? Just like a dog learns to expect you to be around more, he can also re-learn how to be alone – or at least apart from you. In order to minimize stress, it is best to start retraining in short increments. Start by leaving your pup in his crate or in another room while you work (yes, he will likely bark or whine). Begin with short periods of time – fifteen minutes at first and increase gradually. Next, start leaving your dog home for short times regularly – maybe go for a second walk by yourself, and increase the duration.

Well-operated canine daycares can provide a great diversion and will help your pooch learn that you leaving him can actually lead to fun and fulfillment. Be careful and do your homework to ensure the daycare is structured and safely operated, otherwise this could backfire if you leave him in a more stressful situation. Highly structured programs are best, where the dogs are physically and mentally engaged and are taught proper interaction skills and to respect each other. This will help your pooch to be confident while away from you and help him be calmer in general. 

Working with a trainer is another option, especially if you are seeing extreme behavior or not having success in your own attempts to train your dog. However, since dogs want to learn from their owners, try the activities and recommendations in this article first.  

So, when do you start preparing your dog for a return to a more traditional home life? The answer is today. Even if you have a return-to-work date that is a few months away, your dog can start learning some independence and self-confidence now. Ultimately, it will alleviate anxiety and make for a smoother transition to the new normal when the time comes.

Jeff Kellogg is the founder of the Woofy Wellness Ranch, a comprehensive canine wellness facility headquartered in Richmond’s East End. He’s the father of two and lives in Hanover County with his family. Learn more about Woofy Wellness Ranch here.
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