How to prevent separation anxiety in your dog when returning to the office
Since the pandemic broke out in March last year, most of us will have been spending a lot more time at home, and one of the positives of this situation was being able to spend more time with our dogs. A lot of people also saw it as an opportunity to get their first dog, which is great, but new or inexperienced owners need to be aware that they must prepare their dog for their new reality when they have to return to the office.
Separation anxiety can be a serious problem for dogs – research suggests that 8 out of 10 dogs struggle when left alone for too long*. If you are concerned your dog may struggle with this, there are some telltale signs to be wary of when leaving them on their own. These include destroying furniture, excessive barking/howling, scratching, digging, escape behaviour, unwanted toileting and trembling.
Animal charities including the RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA have reported that they have ‘serious concerns’ that many new dog owners will be considering giving up their dogs to shelters, due to fears that they can’t effectively care for their dog when they return to work**. This comes after the charities have said that rescue shelters around the UK have already ‘hit capacity***.
The good news is that this can be prevented if you are prepared and take the right steps before the ‘return to the office’ day comes. To help out, we teamed up with animal behaviourist Bryony Cole from Eye to Eye Dogs, to find out what the best steps to take are to prepare your dog or when you return to work.
- Test runs
Dogs and owners will have fully adjusted to working from home life by now and trial runs are recommended before returning to the office. Run through a typical morning routine with the dog and start by leaving them in the house for five minutes and then slowly build up the duration.
- A brisk walk
Taking a dog out for a brisk walk before leaving for work in the morning helps to burn off any excess energy and puts them in the mood to relax – a 45 minute walk is the minimum required for most breeds if they’re being left indoors alone for a significant amount of time.
- Find a trusted dog walker to break up the day
Whether it is a family member, friend or a professional dog walker, it is a good idea to have a reliable person check in on the dog during the day to give them the opportunity to get some fresh air, exercise and relieve themselves. Ideally dogs will not be left alone for longer than six hours and puppies shouldn’t be left alone for more than two hours. If a dog walker is too expensive to use regularly, sites like Borrow my Doggy connect dog lovers with families whose pet needs attention/walking.
- Rotate toys
When home alone, try to rotate the dog’s toys day to day, to give them a different experience and reduce the chances of them getting bored.
- Separate dog into a separate room while WFH
While still working from home, spend periods of the day with the dog shut in a different room to test how they behave while separated. This should get them used to being away from their owner and can help build up their tolerance for isolation. Like with the test runs, the duration of time should be increased each time from five to ten minutes.
- Ensure all downstairs windows and doors are securely locked
Dogs that are left alone can try to escape if they’re in an anxious state, therefore it’s important to secure all doors and windows to ensure they can’t get out.
- Set up CCTV or a pet camera at home
CCTV and pet cameras are easier than ever to set up, with many connecting straight to your mobile phone. More than anything setting up a camera will provide you with peace of mind, knowing that your dog is coping okay while you are gone. It might even be fun to see what they get up to while the master is out.
- A room with a view
Just like humans, dogs are curious animals. Provided your dog doesn’t bark at everything that goes past the window, they will really enjoy being able to watch the world go by, which will stop them getting bored, so if possible do leave them in a room with a view.
- Adjust feeding times in preparation
If you will be unable to keep the same feeding times when back in the workplace, adjust the times you feed your raw dog food to your dog, before it actually has to change to give them time to adapt. Dogs often run their body clock by their stomachs! If you are unsure of how much food you should be feeding your dog, check out our raw dog food calculator.
Heidi Maskelyne, founder of ProDog Raw, said,
“Returning to the office is going to be tough for both owners and dogs, we have loved having all this extra time with our dogs and they have loved spending it with us. It is understandable that some new owners may be a little concerned about how their dog will cope with these changes, however by following these simple steps it will be possible to make the transition as smooth as possible, and prevent any more dogs being sent unnecessarily to the already overcrowded shelters.
“The key to getting past this separation anxiety is to be prepared. Try some test runs of leaving your dog in a different room alone at first, and then slowly expose them to their new circumstances, being sure to keep an eye on their behaviour in case they display any anxiety, as this will need to be addressed straight away.”
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