For the past 22 months your dog has been happily sleeping by your side while you worked, but now you’ve been called back to the office and your dog is freaking out or depressed when you leave the house. Or maybe you took advantage of the time at home to add a new puppy to your family, one who has never known a time when you weren’t with him 24/7.
As hard as it may be for us to adjust to the return to working outside of our homes, the change is harder on them. How do we help them adjust to their new reality?
1. Don’t expect them to be ok with the change right away. It’s going to take time and some effort on your part to help them through this transition. When you are home, start leaving your dog for short periods of time. Leave the house and come back in 5 minutes. Do this a few times, then leave them for 10 minutes. Gradually extend the amount of time you stay away, normalizing the process for them, and letting them see that you always come back.
2. Make sure to take your dog for at least a 30 minute walk before you leave.
3. If you work a full day, make sure to arrange for a dog walker to come and take your dog for an age and breed appropriate walk mid-day. In addition to a much needed pee break and physical exercise, a walk where they are allowed to stop and sniff burns mental energy which leads to a calmer dog.
4. Make sure they have access to the area that they feel most comfortable in. If they’ve been spending their days curled up on the sofa, don’t suddenly lock them in the kitchen when you leave.
5. If they act up by chewing or tearing up household items while you’re gone, don’t punish them. For one thing, it’s probably been hours since they did it and they have no idea why you’re angry, just that you are, which only makes them more anxious.
Think of your pets like children. Before you leave the house, make sure that anything of value is tucked up high, as well as anything that could harm them, such as that empty Dorito bag from last night, or the leftovers of that yummy charcuterie board you had for dinner.
If something gets destroyed, that’s on you not them…(well, with the exception of chewed sofas and door frames). Don’t leave piles of shoes by the door and then be surprised when your bored and anxious dog chews them while you’re gone.
6. If your dog has not been crate trained since he was a puppy, do not start crating him now, it will just cause more stress.
7. Invest in some new distractions…chew toys, snuffle mats, automatic ball dispenser etc. If your dog has a lot of toys, pack all but a handful away in the closet, and rotate them out every week. Dogs get bored with the same toys all the time.
8. Place a Kong filled with peanut butter and/or yogurt in the freezer overnight and place it where they can find it after you've left the house. Don't hand it to them, let them "hunt" for it. Their nose will lead the way.
9. Leave the TV on for them. Make sure it is on a channel that doesn’t shut off if there is no activity after a period of time. You can also leave a radio playing, but TV is better as they can watch the movement on the screen. Try a nature channel...they love watching birds and squirrels!
10. Some dogs benefit from using a Thundershirt.
11. Another alternative is pheromones from a lactating mother dog which can soothe them. Spray it on their bed or blanket, or on their collars.
12. Consider using Bark At The Moon Naturals CBD Oil. CBD has been proven effective for anxiety and pain. Some dogs will take it directly from the dropper into their mouth, but for most dogs you will need to give it to them with a small amount of a special treat such as canned salmon. Give it to them about 30 minutes before you leave.
13. Finally, don’t make a big fuss over them when you leave the house. Try to leave as calmly as possible, and the same when you come home. You want them to start regarding the process as no big deal, not a dramatic event.
If your dog is still experiencing anxiety after trying these recommendations, I would suggest that you consult with a reputable trainer. I highly recommend Laura at King's Creatures and you can choose a 30 minute online consultation. You can also search here for an accredited International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) trainer.