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Heading back to the office? Here's how to ease your dog’s separation anxiety

Dogs helped thousands of people cope with loneliness in lockdown. But this International Dog Day, it might be time to help them feel confident alone again

Life will look different this International Dog Day (Thursday August 26) than it did last year. It’s not quite a return to normality, but thousands of people across the UK are returning to office working after 18 months of Zoom calls taken while squared away in bedrooms, kitchens and generously-sized cupboards.

Home working during the Covid-19 crisis has given pets constant access to their owners, meaning canine companions could become unsettled when office workers start leaving home for several hours every day again. 

Around 3.2 million households adopted a new pet during lockdown, and a move away from home working could prove particularly challenging for animals who have only known their owners’ habits under restrictions. 

Dogs experiencing separation anxiety might bark or whine if they don’t have access to their owners, while others could develop destructive tendencies.

Other behaviours such as panting, drooling, eating less and excessively grooming could indicate separation anxiety in dogs too, and they may try to walk out the door with their owners as they leave.

If you’re concerned about how your dog will fare as you transition to a new post-lockdown routine, these International Dog Day tips from the experts are the best place to start.

Prepare early

You can pre-empt the difficulties your dog might face by changing how you interact with them while still working from home.

Gradually reducing your dog’s access to you throughout the day ahead of your return to the office will help them grow acclimatised to being away from you. It could be as simple as closing the door of the room where you work, but the sooner you start doing this the better.

Don’t forget the importance of routine

Disruption to routine can be as distressing for dogs as their owners suddenly being out for long periods of time.

While still working from home, it’s a good idea to adapt your morning routine to something resembling the routine you’ll have once back to the office, says Royal Canin.

Consistency is key for keeping your dog’s stress levels down, so don’t be tempted to give them too much extra attention if it means veering away from the routine you are establishing.

Try a stair gate

Petplan recommends installing a stair gate at home to create some distance between you and your dog while still allowing it free roam of some of your house.

They’re easy to remove and mean your dog still has a view of people going about their business, but can help pets learn to be okay without constant access to owners.

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Create a cosy space for your dog

According to the Dogs Trust, establishing a spot for your dog to feel safe, secure and comfortable is important in allowing it to feel confident when home alone.

A soft bed in a quiet area or a cosy crate can make all the difference when trying to help dogs relax. Clothes or towels which smell like their owners can help them relax, too.

Make sure dogs are entertained

The more bored a dog is while home alone, the more likely it will develop separation anxiety.

It’s crucial your dog has enough chews and toys to ensure being home alone is still an enriching time, and reduces the likelihood of them damaging possessions and furniture out of stress.

It’s also important to ensure your dog is getting enough exercise, on International Dog Day and every day. If it has been walked enough, it’s more likely to use its time alone to rest.

Don’t make a fuss when leaving or arriving home

Blue Cross warns that if your farewells upon leaving the house in the morning are loud and extravagant, your dog’s stress levels are more likely to increase and it could develop anxiety associated with your hellos and goodbyes.

Keep it low key and, if your dog is particularly anxious upon your return, try not to interact with it too much until it has calmed down.

Leave the radio on

Plenty of people don’t like to be stuck in a completely silent house, and some dogs are no different. The gentle sound of voices from a TV or radio can be enough to soothe your dog when no one’s home.

Visit your vet

If your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety, it’s important to pay a trip to your vet. They can advise you on how best to help your pooch through stress, but anxiety symptoms could also indicate an underlying illness which a vet could identify.

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