There’s always a weird transition period when the kids start heading back to school. If you’ve been working at home and have been called back to the office you might be experiencing the same thing. The truth is, we aren’t the only ones who have to readjust to being away from home.
Our dogs have been excited to have us home. Now they’ll have to get used to being alone for a large chunk of the day. Some dogs may be used to the back and forth, and some may even secretly wish for their alone time again. But for many dogs, the adjustment isn’t so easy.
Thankfully, you can help ease your dog into the new routine before you head back to work or school. We have some tips lined up to help you prevent your dog from developing back to school or work separation anxiety.
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is when dogs experience anxiety symptoms when separated from their owner. There are different things that can contribute to a dog developing separation anxiety. They may be lonely. Dogs with a traumatic past may have a fear of abandonment. They may be bored. They may not be getting enough exercise. Whatever the cause, it’s said that 1 in 6 dogs suffers from separation anxiety. Not sure what anxiety looks like in dogs?
Separation anxiety symptoms can look like:
Destructive behaviors like shredding the furniture and chewing your belongings
Whining and crying when you’re getting ready to leave the house
Urinating or defecating while you're gone
Barking and howling until you come home
Digging at the doors
Jumping on you when you get ready to leave
Even if your dog has never shown signs of separation anxiety in the past, it’s important to ease into any changes. Dogs thrive on routine and a sudden shift in their schedule can cause anxious behaviors.
It can be frustrating to come home and find the couch cushions massacred on the floor. Even though you may be angry, don’t punish your dog. They won’t even know what you’re punishing them for. Just like a person who suffers from anxiety attacks, your dog needs reassurance and help to work through it.
Tips To Handle Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
Since you know when you’ll be heading back to school or work it’s best to be proactive. Start easing your dog into the new schedule now so they have time to adjust.
If your dog is already showing signs of separation anxiety, these methods can help stop anxious behaviors. The sooner you address separation anxiety, the easier things will be for both you and your dog.
If you have been taking your dog everywhere, start leaving her at home sometimes so she gets used to the change. Consider these like practice sessions. You can start small and work your way up to longer periods of time.
Get your dog accustomed to your leaving ritual. Grab your shoes, bag, and keys, leave for a few minutes and come right back. Or do this ritual without leaving at all. The point is to desensitize your dog to the sight and sound of you leaving, so they know it isn’t anything to stress about.
Consider crate training. You can work toward leaving the door to the crate open, and many dogs come to see their crate as a safe space.
Make sure she has a safe place that is just hers. Having a safe place to retreat can help your dog feel calmer and more relaxed. This may be their crate if you have crate trained previously!
Set an exercise schedule so your dog has a routine they are familiar with. This also ensures that they’re getting enough physical exercise before you leave them alone. An under-exercised dog will find other ways to entertain themselves… like chewing on shoes!
Take a walk in the morning so your dog is relaxed and ready for a nap when you leave. A tired dog is a happy dog!
Fill a puzzle toy like a Kong with treats so your dog has something to keep her occupied. Dogs need mental exercise and having to work for a treat helps work out their brains.
When you are home, make sure your dog is getting attention and family time.
Consider hiring a dog walker. A dog walker will break up the day and give your dog a chance to get the wiggles out. This is also great if you have a puppy or an older dog since they likely can’t hold their bladder and bowels all day.
Leave the radio on. Studies show dogs enjoy classic rock and reggae the best, but play around and see which music makes your dog the most relaxed.
Have your things ready to go so when you leave the house things stay calm. If you’re running around trying to find everything, your dog will certainly pick up on the stress.
How Training Can Help Combat Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
One of the best things you can do for your dog is to have her on a training routine. Training isn’t just about your dog being able to sit and stay. It’s about helping your dog understand boundaries and expectations.
Your dog will be more comfortable at home if she knows what you expect. Boundaries and routines are very important for your dog. They help your dog understand her place in your family, and they help her know how to behave when she’s alone.
Don’t forget your dog is trying to understand how to navigate human expectations and doesn’t understand what you want unless she’s trained. Living with another species and understanding their changing schedules and how they affect you would certainly make anyone anxious!
Do you need help getting your dog on the right routine? That’s our specialty at Dog Friendly Living! We offer in-person and virtual training, as well as virtual behavior consultations. Check out our services page to see which option is right for you!