Going Back to Work Soon?
Worried about your dog coping with being left alone?
Concerned you might already be seeing some separation anxiety?
You're not alone.
As people slowly begin to return to work, we're already seeing a huge jump in dogs being surrendered to shelters. We can only imagine how heartbroken their owners must be, whether they had to surrender due to no longer having the time, or simply were unable to deal with the behavioral issues cropping up in these still unprecedented times.
The number one reason dogs are surrendered to shelters? Behavioral issues. This ranges anywhere from being impossible to walk on a leash, to separation anxiety, to straight up aggression issues.
Many rescues are concerned at how much these surrender numbers have jumped, knowing they will likely only climb more when owners realize their new best friend can't be left alone, and are forced to go back to work.
Separation anxiety can look different for any dog, but a few common signs include things like:
-Barking, whining, or other vocalizations upon departure
-Extreme excitement upon reuniting with their humans
-Urinating or defecating
If you're seeing any of these pop up when your dog is left alone, there's a pretty solid chance you're looking at separation anxiety (SA).
"Okay, great, yeah I know, now what?"
So glad you asked!
SA can be complex, depending on what severity you're dealing with, but I do have a few things that can help.
Get yourself a baby cam. Seriously. You can get them for $30 on Amazon, you don't need one with any crazy bells and whistles, and it'll help you not only gauge how your pup is doing when you're gone, but also help you know exactly what they're doing so you don't feel like you have to rush home ASAP. You'll know if they start eating the couch.
Buy WAY too many Kongs. They are one of the most underrated SA tools. Licking is a huge self soothing tool for a lot of dogs, and tossing them one a minute before you leave, letting them get started, and then heading out can be super valuable for taking the focus off the departure.
Quit reuniting with your dog. If every time you get home, you throw a tiny party with your dog, get excited with them, pet them, and so on, then getting home is a big deal. If getting home is a big deal, then leaving is a big deal too.
Exercise, exercise, exercise. If your pup is under stimulated, mentally or physically, they have that much more energy to focus on you being gone. I'm not saying work them to the point of exhaustion (you'll just end up with a dog with crazy endurance!), but make sure their biological needs are being met.
Speaking of biological needs- If your dog has minimal or zero training under their belts, they probably don't have a good sense of clarity, guidance, or structure, all of which are nothing short of monumental when dealing with SA. This is an often overlooked biological need for dogs, but arguably one of the most important when handling fear, stress, or anxiety.
Notice that nowhere in this blog post have I mentioned a crate yet.
Does your dog need a crate? Probably, yeah. Honestly, crate stuff is an entirely different blog post. But do you need one for managing SA? Well, for a lot of dogs it makes it a lot easier to solve, but it's not always completely necessary, no. In fact, sometimes adding a crate into the mix where there wasn't one before can backfire.
Of course, having input from a trainer greatly expedites the process of making your dog feel safe and secure when left home alone. It can be tricky, and there's no one formula to solve it, different things work for different dogs. But above all, remember that you are not alone. Finding support is both attainable and necessary, don't be afraid to call a trainer. We are here for you.