Beagle with separation anxiety waiting at window for owner.

COVID-19 and Separation Anxiety in Dogs

While staying at home is meant to help us reduce the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve, there are some other unintended benefits – especially for our canine friends.

Our dogs love having us home all day, and although the additional quality time is wonderful, it’s important to remember that things won’t always stay this way. Just as it took some time to adjust to our “new normal,” it will take additional time to adjust once again as the economy begins to open up and we head back to work.

Why do some dogs experience separation anxiety?

It’s hard to say for sure why some purebred puppies and dogs experience separation anxiety, but it is a condition that can affect all dogs.

Dogs can experience separation anxiety when they’ve formed a strong bond or attachment to one caregiver. Dramatic change can also be known to trigger the disorder.

 What does separation anxiety look like in dogs?

Just like anxiety in humans, anxiety in dogs can manifest itself in many different ways. Some dogs might urinate or defecate in the house, destroy furniture, display aggressive behaviour, appear restless, pace, pant or bark excessively if they are unable to find comfort when left alone or separated from their owners.

Discuss your dog’s behaviour with your veterinary professional for a diagnosis and further guidance.

Will my dog suffer from separation anxiety when I go back to work?

It’s hard to say for sure, but if your dog is typically prone to anxiousness, your return to work could trigger some fear of separation.

Many dogs can experience separation anxiety after a period of prolonged attachment to their owners, including during summer break, extended unemployment, or parental leaves.

What can I do now to limit my dog’s anxiousness following my return to work?

Veterinary experts recommend taking simple steps now to reduce your dog’s feelings of anxiousness and loneliness following the pandemic:

  • Practice social distancing. Yes, you read that right! Work on giving your pup some space while you’re still at home and encourage them to spend periods of time alone.
  • Gradually increase periods of time spent apart. Start small and work up to longer periods without your pooch. If you are well and your local restrictions allow it, go for a walk without your dog or a drive to give them some space.
  • Stick to routine. Dogs thrive on routine – knowing what to expect can give your pup a sense of normalcy. Time meals and walks at intervals that will be consistent when you return to work to reduce uncertainty.
  • Stay active! Giving your dog a good exercise session with a walk or vigorous play can help burn off energy and can increase the likelihood that they’ll stay relaxed and calm while you’re away.

 Staying positive is another key to helping reduce feelings of separation anxiety for your dog – dogs can pick up on our emotional cues and feelings. Stay optimistic about your return to work and your dog’s ability to adjust – together, you’ve got this!

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