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Don’t Leave Me!

The separation anxiety struggle will be real for your dog when you go back to work

While you may be dreaming of the day you can go back to the office, your favorite coffee place, and to some gossipy chit-chat with co-workers, your dog might have serious issues when suddenly you’re gone again.

(We say dog, because we know that with some exceptions, most cats can’t WAIT for you to get back to the old routine and leave them alone, already.)

Most dogs thrive on routine and live for the time they have with you, so it’s important you know the signs of pending separation anxiety as well as what to do about it.

Leave the house for short periods of time, but don’t go far. If your pooch begins to bark, howl, whine, or scratch at the door, or tears something up while you’re away for that few minutes, chances are you are going to have a distressed dog on your hands when it’s time to ditch the sweats for suits.

Separation anxiety is no joke—upset dogs can not only do damage to your home and property, but to themselves as well. Having accidents in the house, crate destruction, pacing, howling, as well as chewing walls, doors, and furniture are not uncommon.

Some dogs even get anxious when they notice the signals of their owner’s impending departure such as putting on a coat and grabbing keys.

So how do you prepare your pet to be alone again? Here are a few suggestions to help acclimate your canine:

  • Start NOW. Don’t wait until the day before you begin your previous work routine. Ease super-attached dogs into it by telling your pet to “stay” and then going to another room for a minute before calling them to you. Putting your pet in a separate room—with a favorite toy or long-lasting treat for 10-20 minutes while you are home may help as well.
  • One of the most important things you can do is to begin leaving your dog alone in the home for varying periods of time. Leave for just a minute to start, then gradually increase the time you are gone. Your dog will (hopefully) come to learn that absences are safe.
  • Make leaving a non-event. Don’t acknowledge your dog or say goodbye when you go. Yes, it’s hard not to tell them you love them, to be a good dog and that you’ll be home soon—but it’s necessary.
  • If possible, getting your dog out for a walk, run, or some other energy-burning exercise prior to your departure is extremely helpful in reducing stress. A tired dog has a much greater chance of being a calm dog. (And by the way, it works for people, too!)
  • Enrich your dog’s environment! Try interactive games, puzzles, and toys to keep your dog occupied as well as stuffed Kongs, which your pet will positively associate with you leaving. These toys and games don’t have to be expensive, but there’s plenty of more advanced canine entertainment available. Leaving music or the television on and putting your dog in a comfort vest like a ThunderShirt might be helpful as well.
  • Many pet owners have seen results with herbal solutions and pheromones such as Rescue Remedy or Adaptil products as a supplement to training. Cannabidiol (CBD) is also gaining popularity as a treatment for canine anxiety—but do your research and check with your vet before administering this to you pet.
  • Make an appointment with your veterinarian. If you’ve tried reconditioning and training but your pet is still exhibiting anxiety or destructiveness, your vet can prescribe medications such as Xanax, Clomicalm, and Sileo.
  • Reach out to a professional trainer or behaviorist if necessary. In the long run, this will be less expensive than a demolished den or vet bills from anxiety-caused injuries.

Finally, be patient and don’t give up right away as it may just take time for your dog to adjust to your new schedule. Of course, there’s always the option of finding a new job that allows telecommuting or dogs in the office—which many folks have now found makes for both happier people and pets!