We have passed the reigns of the blog over to our very good friend Pippa, we know a few of your are worried about returning to work and leaving your dogs so hopefully, her knowledge can offer you some help!
Hi! I'm Pippa. I'm a Canine Behaviour student, a lifelong dog owner and lover, a mother and an all-round dog nerd! Amongst other things I primarily work helping families to live the best, harmonious life they can with their dogs. You can see my little girl's journey growing up with dogs on Instagram, search @growingupwith_dogs.
As more and more of us are returning to work and adjusting to the 'new normal', Anya has asked me to guest write a blog this week around the risk of our dogs suffering from separation anxiety.
Lockdown has had its fair share of up’s and down’s for everyone, not least of all our dogs. Many of us are now starting to get back into a work routine, be it working from home, working different hours or returning to work full time. Lots of us will have spent time preparing for this, but how prepared are our dogs? Is it really fair to expect them to adapt to these changes without any preparation or issues?
Ask any mum or dad about their child’s first drop off at nursery and they will probably tell you it's heartbreaking! These parents have spent months preparing their child for a few hours without them, yet there are still tears on the first day. We’re able to explain to our children where we’re going and when we’ll be back. But with a dog - we can't.
Separation anxiety is when a dog shows signs of stress or unwanted behaviour when left alone or separated from its owner. This can range from being quite minor to very extreme and the signs are usually quite easy to spot. However, sometimes owners can mistake this behaviour for their dog being ‘naughty’. You need to look out for things like; following you around the house when you're around and pacing, trembling or crying when separated from you. More extreme traits to look out for are; howling, barking, destructive behaviour, scratching, chewing and toileting in the house.
As a result of the current situation, a lot of owners have been on furlough or working from home. Apart from the obvious stresses and upset to 'normal' life, we've also unknowingly got our dogs used to us being around the house for most of, if not all of the day. Suddenly, thousands of dogs all over the world are now presenting behavioural issues.
Whilst this can seem like a really big problem and a general headache for owners, separation anxiety is fixable and more importantly, it's preventable altogether. Rather than just hoping that your dog will be OK when you return to work, there are a few easy steps you can take to help ease them back into this routine.
Even while you're still at home with your dog you can start to build a positive association with them being away from you. Start small and slow. Leave them in a different room to you and the rest of the family for a very short period of time and then slowly leave them for longer periods. The key here is to make that time away from you a really positive experience for them. Hounds have some great long-lasting treats that are a perfect treat to keep your dog occupied. My two personal favourites are Antlers or Yak Snacks. Or if you have an older dog who would prefer something softer try the JR pate in a Kong or on a licki mat. Hounds sell plenty of flavours so your dog will never get bored of them. Licking and chewing is a natural stress reliever for a dog, so these kind of treats are ideal for practising being away from you. Hounds offer a monthly treat box, so you can be sure to always have a steady supply of different treats to keep your dog entertained!
When it comes to more severe separation anxiety it’s very important that we, as owners, don't make the act of coming and going as too much of a big thing. We can very easily cause separation anxiety in our dogs by giving them the wrong signs. One thing that we are all guilty of is long good-byes and overexcited hellos to our dogs. (Myself included!) It is such a difficult thing not to do especially when you see the look of happiness on your dog’s face when you return. Unfortunately, this can reinforce a dogs negative behaviour while we're away from them.
When leaving your dog, say nothing. Pick up your keys. Dropdown a biscuit and leave.
Anya from Hounds recommends the JR Coins, they are a biscuit but take a little more bite to crunch down giving your Dogs time to relax and for you to settle back at home.
When you return home say nothing again. Allow them to go outside and give them five minutes to calm down. Once they are calm you can call them over and then give them a little fuss. This process shows your dog that you coming and going is no big deal. Nothing to get worked up over. Just, normal.
If you're already back into your work routine and your dog is already showing signs of separation anxiety, it's not something that can be fixed overnight and it almost certainly won't go away on its own. But with a little time and effort, it can be done.
A few products to add to youe Dogs diet to help calm them are the Dorwest Scullcap & Valerian tablets. Ideally start giving these daily before returning to work. Depending on your Dogs size depends on how many tablets, all the info is on the tub.
If you are having problems with separation anxiety and feel like you need some 1-1 help, I'm currently offering discounted zoom calls to help dogs and their owners with the return back to work.
You can contact me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org quoting ‘Hounds Zoom’ as the subject.
Here's a round-up of some of our personal favourite chews and treats to help to leave your dog when returning to work click here
Five top tips when leaving your Dog home alone
- Creat a den or a comfy spot. If you can close curtains to encourage your Dog to sleep.
- Play some music, now am not saying blast the radio all day but we have definatley noticed our own dogs are more settled when we have left classic fm on for them!
- Give your dog a toy or a treat dispenser to keep them entertained.
- Get a dog camera, call me crazy but its the best money I have ever spent it will also help if you have any issues with neighbours and your dogs barking as you will be able to see exactly whats going on at home when you are no there.
- Lastly calming herbs, sprays or tablets. They do help but you need to start before you go back to work and keep up with them until you are confident your dog is settling.
We are hoping to do a few more blog takeovers in the future. If there's something in particular you would like to see leave it in the comments below!