We all know our fur babies have unique personalities ranging from Miss Independent to A Grade clinger types. However, what we are finding off the back of recent prolonged periods at home with their hoomans, many pets whom previously had not exhibited separation anxiety, are struggling to adapt to being home alone again. Not to mention the ‘covid-pups’ who know no different than being with their family 24/7…

Whether your loved companion is currently experiencing separation anxiety, or you are preparing for its’ likelihood with a return to the workplace, we’ve put together some useful tips to assist the transition period and ease your pooch into their new routine. The ultimate goal is for your fur baby to tolerate being left alone.

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Introduce your dog to gradual departure

It is important that the process of leaving your dog alone is done so gradually, starting with many short separations that do not produce anxiety. This can be as simple as the ‘stay’ command with your pooch being in another room for a few seconds, then progressing to you being behind a door and out of site. Over time, gradually increase the duration of the separations which gently accustoms your dog to being alone. This is referred to as desensitizing.

Leave them a special treat each time you leave

A treat not only offers a distraction as you physically leave, but provides a means for your pooch to calms their nerves. Treats that entertain dogs for a longer amount of time (food filled toys or durable chew toys) can then act as something that your dog looks forward to while you’re away. This is referred to as counterconditioning.

Create a safe space

Create a safe space where your dog can retreat and settle whilst they are transitioning to being left home alone. This will depend entirely on your dog – for some it may be their bed, under their main hoomans desk, or even allowing a bedroom door to be left ajar so they can sneak on their main hoomans bed (where they had become accustomed to spending their days).

Crate training may be considered if the anxiety has lead to destructive behaviour in the house or garden when left alone. While you are still home, have your dog become familiar with the crate.

Start with short periods and increase the time spent in it slowly. You can feed in the crate and leave a bone to be used as a stress reliever while in there.

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Another option to consider whilst transitioning, especially if you are back to long days away from the house, is to have a friend or dog sitter come past to spend some time with your pooch. Or if you are lucky enough to work in a non-traditional work place, check to see if there are any arrangements regarding ‘bring your dog to work days’.

If you need further support around this issue, Your PetPA offers vet care and advice via our website and App – you can book a vet chat, speak with a nurse online or access our education resources, all from the comfort of your own home.

~ Dr Lachlan Campbell