How to Avoid Separation Anxiety During COVID-19

By Isa Knapp

Now is such an exciting and convenient time to get a dog. Most of us are home almost 24/7 and finally have the time to bond with and train the new puppy we’ve been wanting. But what happens when we go back to work and normal life resumes?

There are a few things you should keep in mind. A puppy will get used to your routine within the first three weeks of being in your home. They will be used to you being around and in turn there could be a possibility of them developing separation anxiety when things go back to normal.

I talked to Kris Tracey about the potential problem. She has been training dogs for over 22 years, works for The Seeing Eye and volunteers with Bepaws They Matter.  

She said that while a dog developing separation anxiety can be a serious problem, there are several things you can do to prevent it.

If you can sense that your puppy is not reacting well to you leaving the house there are a few things you can do to help desensitize your pet.

“Your dog knows all the cues that lead up to you leaving and the panic starts there,” said Kris. “While you’re in the house and not going anywhere, shake your keys from time to time. Put on your jacket. Take it off. He has to see and hear all your normal cues frequently so he can realize that they don’t mean as much as he thinks they do. Your presence or lack thereof has to seem like it’s nothing to worry about. It takes a while and some dogs have much more separation anxiety than others due to their circumstances.”

Another important step that Kris mentioned is to make sure your dog knows that they will receive something great when you leave. You can fill a Kong with peanut butter and put it in the freezer for when you leave the house. That way the dog associates something positive with you leaving.

One of the harder steps (for us pet parents that is) is to making your comings and goings no big deal. I know that the first thing I want to do when I get home is run up and greet my dog, pet him, get kisses, and all that fun stuff but doing that can make their separation anxiety worse.

Kris said that when you enter your home, don’t greet the dog.  “He should feel like it’s no big deal that you just got back. When you’re leaving the house, also no big deal. Try to hold your “Ok Fluffy, mommy is just going out for a while, I’ll be back.” Your leaving should be very matter of fact.”

Speaking from personal experience, I can say that not making your coming and going a big deal works wonders. All dogs that I have fostered have had some separation anxiety and while it’s not the easiest thing to overcome it is so important for the happiness of your dog.

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