Kids aren’t the only ones who get the back-to-school blues.
As we ease our way out of the pandemic our dogs may not be adjusting well to the new, old normal. As pet parents get called back to the office and kids go back to school, the change in routine can create great concern for our best buddies. Their worry over being left alone can show in small ways like pacing, crying, and being on edge all day or they can resort to destructive digging and chewing, peeing and pooping in the house and barking excessively for hours on end. These dogs are overly attached and dependent on the family.
Separation anxiety is on the rise because dogs once used to being alone all day have now had constant companionship. Young dogs born into lockdown have never known anything different. During the pandemic they have enjoyed more walks, treats, inclusion in daily activities and accompanying the family on adventures. Many will not understand the loss of cuddles, games of fetch and lack of treats. The house will suddenly be quiet, boring and scary without all of the noise and excitement of their families.
It is important to train your dog to be happy about being alone for periods of time. It is not too late to incorporate this skill into their daily lives. It is always better to prepare them for being home alone and it is never too late to practice a new routine at any age.
Start inside the home. Make sure your dog has its own safe place to hang out. A comfort spot will be invaluable for your dog and is the basis for a lifetime of knowing how to self-settle when things get scary. Offer a selection of chew or cuddle toys and encourage routine quiet times away from the family.
Do this by leaving the room for a short time, making no big deal about having gone out of sight. It’s ok to close the door when using the bathroom, ask your dog to leave the room while cooking dinner, or walk to another room while talking on the phone. Gradually increase the time out of sight.
Next work on leaving the house. Dogs are very routine and know that when you put on your shoes and grab your keys, you are leaving. Practice the routine by stepping outside briefly and coming back. Work on adding more time.
Try offering a really great distraction like a puzzle toy or treat stuffed chew when leaving and don’t make a big deal about the hello and good-bye. A sound machine, radio or TV playing in the background can help soothe as well.
Another method that works is changing up the routine. Leave your dog inside while you walk to the mailbox. Put on your shoes and carry your keys around the house without leaving then take the shoes off and move on to another task.
Dogs left home are not getting the same mental stimulation and physical exercise. A dog walker can be part of the new routine by ensuring potty breaks, exercise and belly rubs. This special time and attention can help your best buddy adjust to the home changes and this makes for a happy and harmonious pet relationship.