Hey gang! Avoiding separation anxiety when you return to work is certainly tricky if you’re underprepared. Although I know that a lot of you are planning to stretch out the whole working from home thing as long as possible (especially all you city slickers who have now made “home” by the beach!) But the fact is, whether you’re going back to the office or not, the act of spending more time at home could be setting a lot of dogs up for a lifetime of separation anxiety. So, I want to talk about some ways to avoid that and help transition back to “normal”.
Not to fluff your ego, but your dog probably loves you so much that your company is like a drug to him or her. The more time that you spend with them, the more addicted they become. If you’ve spent more time at home in the past two years, your dog will have become used to it. Their needs have adjusted. Or, if you’ve introduced a new dog to the family during Covid, then this lockdown love is the only life they know!
Ok, time for the tips!
1. Get back into a routine!
So, for those of you still working in your PJ’s and brushing your teeth somewhere between morning tea and lunch, this may benefit you just as much as your pooch. Normally, too much routine can be problematic as dogs adjust to routine and for example, if they are expecting you home every day at 5 and then one night you end up home 3 hours late because there was a sale on Spiderman themed dog costumes, well that’s when clothes get ripped off the line. But with great power, comes great responsibility. Well, what I mean is that you can use this adaptability to routine for good, not evil. To prepare your dog for a return to work, get them back into a morning routine. Breakfast, walks, wheatgrass shots, whatever it is you do in the morning, a routine will give them the signals that you are getting ready for work and help smooth the transition.
Speaking of morning routines, exercise can help! Good for the body, good for the soul and good for burning energy from an excited hound in the morning to help set them up for some chill time once you start work. Don’t forget their doggy sunscreen if you are heading out into the sun.
3. Solo sessions
Get your doggo used to some alone time. Consider this, whether you work from home, are retired, have housemates or kids that come home after school, your dog may almost never be alone. Then you can’t expect them to act all chill when all of a sudden you are gone. Covid or not, I generally encourage pet owners to make sure they take the time to leave the house without their best mate. If this is a new idea, then start small. If you return home and they’ve eaten the couch or the cat, you’ve left it too long and they got stressed. Ok, so stress does crazy things to us, but maybe we shouldn’t use it as an excuse for eating the cat.
4. Keep calm & come home
Speaking of stress, departures and arrivals can be stressful times for your dog, particularly if you make a big deal out of them. When you leave for work, try to do it calmly. Even avoid goodbyes altogether and simply toss a treat in their direction as you leave. The idea is to create a positive connotation, or make departure time a good thing because it’s morning tea time.
Likewise, when you come home, keep it calm. This one is really hard , I know. Seeing your dog after work is the best thing ever! If you can bear it, try to wait 5 minutes before letting your dog inside for kisses. Yeah right Dr Andy, 5 minutes! Ok well at least try to avoid an immediate big sugar rush hello which becomes addictive for both parties.
5. Doggy daycare
Yep, doggy day care is a thing! Particularly if you’ve had a new puppy arrive mid-covid. Then as you take some time apart, doggy daycare, a dog sitter or walker may help soften the blow for both of you.
One of my favourites subjects. As I mentioned, treats can be a great way to teach your dog that leaving time is a happy time. As well as that, treats can help stimulate the mind and pass time. Think long lasting treats and food puzzles. The Dr Zoo Lick & Stay Treat Mat will work perfectly for this!
Ok guys, my last tip is going to be fun so before I get into it, a bit of advice. If you are struggling with a pup who has separation anxiety then call in the experts. Talk to your family veterinarian sooner rather than later. The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to avoid a lifelong problem.
7. Podcasts for dogs
So, when I was a university student, there may have been some “discussions” with my housemates about why we had to leave the TV on for my dog. But I swear he would be thoroughly entertained by Masterchef. Likewise, but less delicious, turn on the radio for some comforting sounds. There’s probably even a podcast channel for dogs!
xo Dogtor Andy