As Australia, particularly New South Wales, returns to some kind of normal, dog owners are returning back to their socially distanced offices, leaving their dogs high and dry. This abandonment after months of canoodling on the couch at 2 in the morning watching episode 8 season 6 of Dance Moms after finishing off your second family sized packet of Red Rock Deli Honey Soy Chicken chips can lead to anxiety in your dog.
Separation anxiety in dogs are quite similar to what we humans face known as panic attacks. Don't get me wrong, I love dogs just as much as a fat kid loves cake (trust me, I know how much a fat kid loves cake) but it's important to understand that they have the cognitive ability of a 2 and a half year old toddler (where are all my new parents at?). This means that they react purely out of emotion, led by feelings that they don’t have any conscious influence over. It’s important to ease your dog’s separation anxiety now before it becomes worse and a larger problem for you and your dog later on.
Introduce Alone Time
It is important to teach your dog that it is ok to be alone sometimes (this article is beginning to sound like my last breakup). How do I do this? Leave your dog alone in the house 3 to 5 times per day. This will allow your dog to slowly adjust to your new work schedule without feeling panicky or abandoned. Positive reinforcement training such as giving them a treat or a chew toy (after you're done reading this take a look at some on our website) and telling them to go to their corner or crate can also help too - who doesn’t like some alone time with a treat?
The Importance of Human Company
Dog owners often think that their dog misses them exclusively (talk about an ego), but infact your dog misses human company. So take your mother out of that nursing home and stick her with Mr Sprinkle. No but seriously, dogs are far less likely to experience separation anxiety when some form of human contact is present. There are people who don’t have dogs who would love to have some canine companionship at no or very little cost to you. Try apps like Rover or Wag! for hiring dog sitters and dog walkers
Desensitise your dogs
Dogs watch us from when they wake up to when they go back to bed. This means that they can build up their anxiety even before we’ve left the house. I would suggest constantly changing your routine every morning (it’ll send you insane but hey it's all about the dog not you) and making similar house leaving noises such as rustling your keys even when you’re not actually leaving the house.
Ensure their exercise needs are met
Ever heard of the expression, a good dog is a tired dog? Well, just like your toddler if you manage to tire your dog out and get them to sleep long enough, you’ll be able to get stuff done. A lack of exercise has been found to contribute to bad behaviour.
Scenting and Interactive Toys
Scenting is what a dog used to find their food before it was delivered to them in a stainless steel bowl in the shape of a love heart. Hiding their kibble and treats around the yard and getting them to find it brings out their primal senses, releasing pheromones. It’d be a great idea to do this when leaving your house as it associates your departure with good feelings (don’t get all insecure on me now).
Don’t sit on my couch
If you can’t manage to take your mother out of the nursing home or find someone who wants to play with your dog, I suggest allowing your dog to stay inside the house whilst you’re at work. For many dogs, being let inside the house is an achievement.
Calming Sprays and Accessories
Who knew aromatherapy and dogs can go together? Collars, diffusers and calming pheromones spray may actually decrease anxiety in both cats and dogs. Something I just found out; weighted dog coats exist. This too may help your dog's anxiety as it calms nerves and provides physical comfort
Seek professional help
If your dog’s anxiety symptoms persist or get worse, seek professional help.