We’ve all been social distancing for months now, and many of us are working from home. Dogs love that, of course. Almost without exception, they like to spend all the time they can with their owners. But the time is coming for many of us, when we will be returning to work.
Your dog stares back at you as you leave, wondering when or if you’ll ever return again. To some animals, it might feel like the end of the world.
Many dogs have perhaps become more codependent amid owners staying home virtually all the time, and leaving the house again can take a toll on them. Take it from Kim Bissing, owner of Beyond The Leash Dog Training.
“If you drastically just go back to work one day, dogs are left with no explanation in their minds,” she said. “You can’t just explain to them that, ‘You’re going to be fine, I’ll be back home.’ Communicating to a dog that, ‘Hey, sorry I was home for three months and now I’m leaving you,’ that takes a lot of work.”
While most canines have a good system for self-soothing, that can be disrupted when their daily circumstances are changed, such as their owner leaving for long periods again.
“Watch if you start to do things like grab your keys or head towards the door and your dog starts pacing, panting, stress yawning, if they can’t settle down easily when you’re not right there,” Bissing said. “Dogs should be able to settle down within a few minutes of somebody leaving. If they’re up pacing for 30 minutes, that’s stress, that’s anxiety. That’s something that, if it’s not treated, gets worse over time.”
More serious separation anxiety behaviors can involve the dog trying to break through a door or their kennel to get to their owner.
Bissing said that, in addition, pooches have a sensitive “sixth sense” that brings them down when owners are feeling stressed or depressed, especially when dogs feel powerless to help their humans.
“If humans are stressed out and mentally drained, it really takes a way bigger toll on the dogs than we think it does,” she said. “What we’re going through is really hard, but it is hard on them too. Just be really aware of your dog’s emotions.”
One way to help reduce separation anxiety issues is by slowly desensitizing a dog to the idea that you’re leaving the house again.
“Leave for short periods, maybe put them in a kennel for quiet time on their own, keeping white noise on because they need that distraction,” Bissing said. “Leave the house at least one or two hours a day, so the dog has to remember those coping skills.”
For longer trips, the dog trainer suggested taking canines to a boarding and training program. She said that a few weeks of socialization and behavior modification, with a training class or at home, can help quell anxious tendencies and help a pooch find more peace of mind.
Based on an article by Patrick Connolly in the Orlando Sentinel