As the current Covid19 restrictions are starting to be gradually relaxed and we start to think about returning to work. It is an ideal time to consider how your dog will adjust to being left home alone and how we can help them with the transition back to “normal” after they have become used to constant company and attention.
Separation anxiety is a term often used to label dogs which struggle to cope in some way when they are left home alone. Behaviours these dogs show can range from barking or howling, destruction of furniture or urinating indoors. There are also many other behaviours which the dog might display that cannot be revealed unless the dog is filmed when left, for example if a dog pants excessively or paces constantly. These behaviours may be motivated by anxiety but can also be symptomatic behaviours of other things such as boredom or frustration rather than true separation anxiety.
Many puppies and rescue dogs have been acquired during or shortly before the lockdown period and have not yet had the opportunity to be left home alone. These dogs will need time to adjust and learn to be confident and content in their own company.
Others may have become unsettled by the change in routine and whilst they were previously happy being left, may struggle with another change and need some help with resuming their normal routine.
If you have an adult dog which has previously been happy when left alone. You can try to gauge how they will adjust to being left again by setting up a camera in the area you would normally leave your dog and record their behaviour when left. Start by leaving them with a stuffed kong while you leave the house and stand outside for a couple of minutes. Then gradually increase the duration to 20 to 30 minutes while you go for a short walk. Review the footage recorded on your camera after each “outing” to see if your dog settles confidently or not.
If you find that your dog doesn’t settle happily, has previously had problems with being left or you haven’t left them before and would like to learn how to start. Get in touch to learn why they are struggling and how to help them feel more relaxed and confident while alone.
Tom Bysouth BSc (CBT)