Separation Anxiety, Preparing Your Dog for Your Return To the Office or Classroom

Although the pandemic had plenty of downsides for us humans, our pets have been having the time of their lives! What more could they ask for than having their parents constantly home, giving them all the love, attention, and walks around the neighborhood? For some puppies, having their parents home with them is all they’ve ever known. So as kids prepare to go back to the classroom and parents return to the office, where does that leave our four-legged friends?

Many experts predict that when owners head back to school and work, it will cause a significant increase in the number of pets experiencing separation anxiety. The good thing is that there are plenty of things you can do to smooth your pet’s transition back to solo time.


First Things First: Recognizing Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is an umbrella diagnosis for dogs who display anxious or problematic behaviors when left alone or separated from the person to whom they are most attached. Some of those behaviors include constant barking, urinating in the house, excessive panting & pacing, destructive chewing and/or escape attempts. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence showing exactly why dogs develop separation anxiety. However, there is a list of situations that have been associated with the development of it. This could be a change in guardian, schedule, residence, or household family members.


Treating Separation Anxiety

When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching them to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety. Here are some ways you can help set your pup up for success when you go back.

1. Establish a Routine
Dogs feel best when they know what to expect from their environment, especially when it comes to safety and access to food. Think back to first potty training your pup – consistency was key. Start easing your pup into their new routine now. Start feeding them and taking them for walks at the times you usually would before and after work. During the time you would be at work or school, separate from your dog from the rest of your family for a couple of hours so they can get acclimated to not being in your presence. If you really want to get ahead of the game, you can go as far as running through your morning routine. Get ready, pack your work bags, and drive around the block for a bit. That way it won’t be as big a deal to your dog to see you go when the actual day arrives for your return to the outside world.

2. Social Distance from Your Dog
If your dog is constantly by your side, begin encouraging a sense of independence. Have them spend more time in their own bed, outside in a fenced yard by themselves, or in their crate while you perform a task that draws your attention away from them. When your dog settles down and relaxes, wait a couple of minutes, and then praise them and give them a treat.


3. Interactive Toys
Puzzle toys and chew toys can help keep your dog stimulated throughout the day. This can prevent them from becoming bored and reverting to those separation anxiety key behaviors. Also, it helps distract them from the noises and activities going on outside of the house.


4. Plenty of exercise
Make sure you are providing your dog with plenty of exercise before and after work hours. Exercise will help your dog burn off excess energy and help them stay relaxed and calm through the day.


5. Try alternatives

a. CBD Product
Like humans, when dogs are stressed, it increases their hormonal secretion of cortisol and adrenaline. When this happens, their primitive fight-or-flight mechanism is unnecessarily activated and anxiety results from their brain’s inability to make sense of the entire situation. Cannabidiol, aka CBD, works on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) which all mammals have. It plays a role in homeostasis within our bodies, which means it works with other systems and processes to address any imbalances. It counteracts separation anxiety caused by a cortisol and adrenaline imbalance to bring about a state of calmness. There are many kinds of CBD out there, brands and forms like treats, capsules, oils, and creams. It’s important to find which product works best for your dog. If you are interested in hearing more about CBD or want to pick up some products to try out – be sure to come by the Stop & ask our staff!

b. Doggie Daycare and Training
If you feel desensitizing your pup on your own is not helping, you can always ask others for help! Doggie daycare is a great option that allows your dog to get the socialization and exercise it needs. The other positive benefit from using The Dog Stop daycare services is that we provide temperature controlled indoor/outdoor play areas that are constantly under supervision by an American Association of Canine Pack Handlers trained canine companion. The other alternative is to enroll your pup in training classes. Trainers can work with your dog and teach them to settle comfortably from cues. Also, they can teach you different methods and tricks like knowing what attention-seeking behaviors are and how to handle them. Click here to find a Dog Stop training facility near you!

The above methods can help ease your dog’s separation anxiety, however, the most important factor is for you to remain calm as well. Dogs often follow their owner’s lead and will pick up on your mood and cues about how they should feel in certain situations. The more you stay relaxed and behave like everything is normal, the more likely your dog will be to follow your lead and accept it when it’s time for you to go!