What You Can do Now to Prevent Separation Stress in the Future?
By Breanne Long, AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer
Most of us, because of COVID-19, are under stay-at-home orders. From the viewpoint of our dogs, it’s wonderful.
Eventually, however, things will go back to normal. When everyone leaves the house for work and school, dogs and puppies will be spending much of the day alone. This could cause stress for our furry friends who have grown used to having people home all day.
Keep reading for some tips to help prevent your puppy, or even older dog, from feeling separation anxiety when this happens.
- Maintain the Routine: This is especially important if you have a puppy. Try to maintain your normal daily routine as much as possible. Normal activities like getting ready for work, packing up bookbags, picking up keys, etc. are usually good predictors for leaving the house. Dogs notice these things! Let your new puppy see and hear these activities, even if you have to pretend, so this doesn’t come as a surprise later when you really need to get out the door. If you have not already developed a routine for your puppy, start right away. The stability of a routine is very comforting to a dog. You’ll find that it makes life easier even when you are home with your pet.
- Crate Train: Just because you can be home all day to supervise your puppy doesn’t mean the crate is obsolete. Crate-train your puppy. Your puppy should spend time in the crate, every day. Not only is this a good, safe place for your pup to hang out, learning to relax in it will make the transition easier when the pup is crated for periods of time in the future while you’re out of the house. The same applies if you prefer using a gate to confine the pup to a certain area. Set up the area with your dog’s crate or bed and potty pads if you are using them.
- Leave the House without Your Dog: Leave the house every day without your dog! Whether this is for a walk, a drive around the block, or even just to sit on your porch, your dog or puppy needs to spend time away from you. Observe your normal routine for your dog when you leave the house. If your dog normally spends time in a crate or gated-off space when you leave the house, maintain that habit. If you usually give your dog a stuffed Kong or chewy treat when you leave, maintain that habit too. Start with short absences and gradually make them longer.
- Spend Time Separated from Pup: If you live without a car in an urban area, or where it is difficult to maintain social distance while out and about, try crating your dog in another room for a period of time every day to create some separation from you.
- Get Special Toys to Alleviate Boredom: Keep a selection of long-lasting chew toys that your dog loves. Treat dispensing toys, chews, and toys that can be stuffed with food can be given when your dog needs to spend time in the crate or pen. Save these extra special things for when you leave the dog alone. This will help to build a positive association with your leaving.
With a little effort and making some conscious decisions each day we are home we’ll be able to make the adjustment of going back to work and school in the future easier for our pets.