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  • Separation anxiety post COVID

    The most polite way I can describe this last COVID year is a “bust”. For most people, separation from friends and family members has been stressful and frustrating and has caused us to re-evaluate what “normal” looks like. But for our canine friends this may well have been the best year of their life. For many dogs, the opportunity to be with their owners throughout the day has never before been an option. And that’s without the extra walks they’ve been on!

    Unfortunately, prior to COVID, many dogs were forced to live a life of isolation, spending hours by themselves, patiently waiting for their owners to come home after a day’s work. Some dogs may have been lucky to have a dog walker take them out or be dropped at a doggy daycare, but many were not that fortunate. 

    Given that dogs are social animals, they need the stimulation of company, either canine, human or preferably both. For some dogs, this lack of company can lead to separation anxiety. This can manifest itself in various ways: excessive howling, destruction of property, peeing or defecating in the home, pacing, panting, attempting to escape the house or excessive excitement when their owners return.  So, with people being forced to be at home, either through being laid off or working from home, COVID may have helped many dogs get through separation anxiety and live a happier life. Dogs have adjusted to a new norm where their owners are around a lot more. However, what are dog owners going to do once COVID restrictions are lifted and they are no longer working from home or have found another job which takes them away from the home each day? No-one wants to return to their previous experience of having to return home to destruction, mess or neighbours complaining of excessive barking or howling.

    There are a few things you could consider:

    • Maybe through the extra dog walking you’ve done you had the opportunity to meet other dog owners and chatted about the benefits of using a professional dog walker or someone to come to your house once or twice a day to let your dog out and spend time with them.
    • Check out the doggy daycares in your area or close to where you work. See what amenities they offer and what care they give to your dog. Such facilities vary greatly so it’s worth the time to see what’s best for your dog and your pocket book.
    • Prior to the time when you know you will be going back to work outside the home, make time to do a number of short trips without your dog (half an hour to an hour) so that he/she gets used to the idea that it’s ok for you to leave, knowing you will come back. Whilst you are out of the house, leave a piece of clothing with your dog that has your smell on it, as your smell is a comfort.
    • As your dog needs mental as well as physical stimulation, get him/her a dog toy, preferably one that involves your dog having to think how to retrieve treats. That way there is the idea of problem solving, followed by reward.
    • If possible, take your dog for an energetic walk prior to your leaving for work. The more of your dog’s energy you can burn off before leaving them the better.
    • Ask your boss if you can start bringing your dog to work with you.

    Separation anxiety can be a real challenge with some dogs. Hopefully during COVID you have taken the opportunity to get to know your dog better and you can apply some of the ideas above to create a better quality of life for your furry friend.