Time to go to work! Those eyes. That look. That bark. Your dog does not want you to go back to work. Your dog may begin barking constantly, urinating on the floor, or chewing everything in sight. Veterinarians and behavioral experts are both noticing an uptick in anxiety in dogs. Is there anything you can do to help your anxious dog? Absolutely. Let’s explore your options.
What’s Causing This Unexpected Anxiety In Dogs
The COVID-19 pandemic swept through last year and stopped life in its tracks. Everyone stayed home and went quietly about their lives. Dogs were able to stick by their human’s side all day long. Rarely were they left alone. Just like humans do, dogs form deep bonds with the people and pets they are with the most.
Now, with a vaccine available, life is beginning to resume. Slowly, but surely, people are headed back to work. Children and teens are returning to school and activities. Dogs are being left alone for the first time in a long time. This newfound loneliness is leading to a rise in anxiety in dogs.
What Can You Do About Your Dog’s Return To Work Anxiety
It would be awesome if dog lovers could all just quit their jobs and stay home to take care of their dogs, but that is not a realistic solution. There are some ways to handle anxiety in dogs without giving up your career. The American Kennel Club (source) recommends these steps to prepare your dog for your return to work:
- Calm your own anxiety.
A change in routine is difficult for everyone. Going back to work can cause anxiety in humans as well as anxiety in dogs. Your dog may begin feeling your anxiety and think there is a reason to worry. Take a few deep breaths and give your dog a sense of calm and security.
- Create distance between you and your dog.
While you are at home, start encouraging independence in your dog. Have your dog play away from you in the yard or another room. Encourage your dog to sleep in a bed away from you. If you dog is crate trained, place your dog in a crate while you complete a task.
- Leave your dog alone for longer and longer periods of time.
Gradually give your dog longer periods of being alone. You can start by having your dog in another room while you complete a task. Move up to leaving the house without your dog to take a walk or a quick drive.
- Create a routine.
Dogs, just like humans, crave routine. A few days before you begin work, start creating a morning routine that you will use before heading to work. Get up early as you would typically do, go through all the motions, and leave the house.
- Carve out time to exercise and play with your dog.
Exercise is one of the best anxiety-busters that exists. Make sure that your morning routine leaves room for 15 minutes of interactive play or a walk with your dog. This will help to burn off energy and help your dog to stay relaxed throughout the day.
- Try interactive dog toys.
Great toys, like puzzle toys and chew toys, help your dog not to get bored throughout the day. They may also distract your dog for other anxiety provoking triggers that they might experience.
Should You Medicate Your Anxious Dogs
When it comes to anxiety in dogs, it might be your first instinct to jump straight to medication. Always discuss your dog’s anxiety with your veterinarian so that you can make a plan that works best for you and your dog. While medication may be a part of your plan, it should not be the only plan.
Medications are not perfect. As we explored last week, medications come with some difficult side effects that may not be justified by the good that they do. Some of the side effects of the medications include things like vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, and lethargy. It is important to have all of the information about any medication you give your dog so you can make an informed choice.
Things That Can Comfort An Anxious Dog Due To Separation
There are some ways that you can provide comfort to your dog even when you are not present. Pressure products provide a comforting “hug” to your dog and help to keep them calm. For dogs that are super stimulated by the sound of your arrival or noises in the hallway or outside, CrittEar Calm dog earplugs can be used sporadically to quiet those noises and keep your dog calm. Preparation on your part, can help keep anxiety in dogs to a minimum.