By Kong Company Staff
Myriad pet owners around the world found themselves unexpectedly stuck at home this past spring and summer. As they figured out how to turn their kitchen tables into workspaces, dogs were enjoying a lot more time with their families at home. Now, many are starting to go back to on-site work, and dogs are having to readjust to another “new normal;” this time without the abundance of attention and play. As a result, many dogs could experience some form of separation anxiety.
Fortunately, there are strategies to help alleviate the condition that you can share with your clients. As you know, dogs are Inherently social animals, and for some, being left alone can cause distress. This can lead to barking, howling, pacing, escape attempts and destructive behaviors. Even dogs who do not experience full-blown separation anxiety might still be upset at the jarring change of routine when their owners go from staying home with them for months, to spending far more time away every day. The following tips can help them adjust.
Create Positive Associations with Departures: Owners can create positive rather than negative associations to their leaving work, and a Kong toy filled with their dog’s favorite treats is a great way to do this. Your clients should give their dog a food-stuffed toy about 5 minutes before they plan to leave. To get the treat out of the toy, dogs must focus both mentally and physically on it, rather than their owners’ exit. Separation-anxiety-caused behavior is are often most severe during the first 20 minutes of being left alone. Filling this time with a food challenge can ease the transition (image right).
Reduce Door Drama: Calm, casual goodbyes—and hellos—can help minimize separation anxiety. When owners return home they should wait until their dog settles down before acknowledging them.
Shake up the Routine: If a client’s dog becomes more anxious when they grab keys, purses and jackets, have them mix their routine up. For example, they could put on their coat, sit on the couch for a while, and then take it off. Or, move the keys around the house without leaving home. Eventually, their dog will stop associating those actions with a departure.
Wear Them Out Before Heading Out: Your clients should take their dogs for a walk or play a game of fetch or find-it before they leave to burn off any excess energy that could spiral into anxiety.
Play Some Tunes: Clients could also leave calm music playing softly while they are away. Not only can the music itself help dogs relax, it can also help reduce stress by masking outside noise.
Use a Crate as a Safe Place: For many dogs, their crate provides a comfortable refuge where they feel secure and can relax. As such, crate training can be a helpful tool for easing separation anxiety. Remember: It’s critical that owners introduce their dog to the crate in a positive, stress-free way. For tips, visit https://kongcompany.com/learn/solutions/crate-training.
Educating owners about tools and strategies that help keep their dogs happy and healthy can help build their trust in you as a pet professional.