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How Can I Help My Dogs Overcome Separation Anxiety in Post-Pandemic Life?


Dear VetBabble,

During the pandemic, I started working from home full time and my dogs have become very attached to me. Now that I need to leave the house occasionally, they show severe signs of separation anxiety. How can I help them get used to me being absent again?

Understanding Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Dear Pet Owner,

It’s not uncommon for dogs to develop separation anxiety, especially after a significant change in schedule or environment. This can happen when we stay home for extended periods and our pets become used to our constant presence. To tackle this issue, it’s essential to understand the root causes of their anxiety and take appropriate measures to alleviate it. I’d recommend taking a look at this helpful article on Separation Anxiety: When Your Dog Can’t Be Alone to better understand the issue.

Preparing Your Dog for Your Absence

Before heading back to work or spending more time away from home, it’s crucial to prepare your dog for the change gradually. Here are some useful strategies:

  1. Slowly Increase Separation Time: Begin by leaving your dog alone for short periods and gradually increasing the duration over time. This will help them become more comfortable with your absence.
  2. Create a Safe and Comfortable Environment: Ensure your dog has a comfortable and secure space to relax while you’re away. This might include a cozy bed, toys, and access to water. Read Bringing A Dog Home To A Safe House for more tips on setting up a safe environment.
  3. Establish a Routine: Dogs thrive on routines, so try to maintain a consistent schedule for feeding, walking, and playtime, even when you’re not home.
  4. Exercise and Mental Stimulation: Before leaving, make sure your dog has had sufficient exercise and mental stimulation through play or training. This will not only tire them out but also help reduce anxiety.
  5. Distraction Techniques: Provide toys or treats that can keep your dog occupied while you’re away. Puzzle toys, for example, can alleviate boredom and anxiety.

You might also find this article on Back to Work: How to Prepare Your Dog for Your Return to the Office helpful in easing the transition to your absence.

Dealing with Anxiety in Dogs

If your dog continues to experience severe separation anxiety despite trying the strategies mentioned above, it’s essential to address the issue to prevent any long-term emotional stress for your pet. Some steps to consider:

  1. Consult Your Veterinarian: Discuss your dog’s anxiety with your veterinarian to determine if there is an underlying health issue or if your dog may benefit from medication.
  2. Behavior Modification and Training: Working with a professional dog behaviorist or trainer can be highly beneficial in developing a customized desensitization and counter-conditioning plan for your dog.
  3. Consider Doggie Daycare or Dog Walkers: If your dog needs more social interaction and human/company, enrolling them in doggie daycare or hiring a dog walker can help alleviate their anxiety while you’re away.

For more information on effectively managing anxiety in dogs, I recommend you read Dealing with Anxiety in Dogs.

Remember, being patient and consistent in implementing these strategies will significantly help in reducing your dog’s separation anxiety. Take the time to understand your dog’s individual needs and work with them toward a happier and more comfortable experience when you’re away.

Wishing you and your dogs the best of luck,

Your Friendly Veterinarian

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