You can’t wait to get back to work and your normal life as our stay-at-home orders are lifted. Your dog, on the other hand, is probably not as enthusiastic about the idea as you are, especially if you adopted during the coronavirus pandemic. Dogs have gotten used to having their owners around all the time, not to mention being showered with constant love and attention. That means once you go back to work, your dog may suffer from separation anxiety, a common behavioural disorder that can lead to destructive behaviour. “Separation anxiety can form in just a few short days, and you want to be smart about your interactions with your pet now so everyone is happier as we return to normal,” says Rob Jackson, CEO and co-founder of Healthy Paws, a pet insurance company. Here’s how to prepare your dog for being alone in the house.
What is separation anxiety?
Certain dogs, like certain humans, are born predisposed to anxiety disorders. Separation anxiety occurs when dogs can’t be with the person or people they’ve bonded with and start to experience distress. For some dogs, it can occur when their owner simply leaves the room, while for others it manifests when they’re left alone at home for hours. Separation anxiety can occur even if there are other pets in the home. “We don’t really know why separation anxiety occurs, but every dog is potentially at risk for it, especially if there is a sudden or dramatic change in their schedule,” says veterinarian Valarie Tynes.
Anxiety warning signs
According to veterinarian Natalie Marks, medical director at Blum Animal Hospital, signs of separation anxiety can include things like:
Barking, howling or whining when the owner is away from home
Panting and pacing
Destructive behaviour such as digging at the carpet, scratching around door frames, and destroying furniture
Peeing or pooing in the house
Vomiting or diarrhoea
In severe cases, dogs may even injure themselves trying to get out of a crate or over a baby gate.