Back to work and school? Tips to help your pets adjust

Are you headed back to work? Kids going back to in-person school? Your dog may be anxious and have issues when you’re suddenly gone for hours at a time again.

Most dogs thrive on routine and live for the time they spend with you, so it’s important you know the signs of separation anxiety. Upset dogs can not only do damage to your home and property, but to themselves as well. Having accidents in the house, crate destruction, pacing, howling, as well as chewing walls, doors and furniture are common signs of severe separation anxiety. Some dogs even get anxious when they notice the signals of their owner’s impending departure such as putting on a coat and grabbing keys.

Here are a few suggestions to help your dog adjust:

  • Start as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the day before you return to your work routine. Ease super-attached dogs into it by telling your pet to “stay” and then going to another room for a minute before calling them to you. Putting your pet in a separate room—with a favorite toy or long-lasting treat for 10-20 minutes may help as well.
  • Let your dog practice being alone. After starting with going to another room for a few minutes, try to work for few hours each day in a different room.
  • Leave the house. Leave the house for short periods of time, but don’t go far. If your pooch begins to bark, howl, whine or scratch at the door while you’re away for those few minutes, wait until it’s quiet before going back in. Gradually increase the time you are gone.
  • Make leaving a non-event. Don’t acknowledge your dog or say goodbye when you go. Yes, it’s hard not to tell them you love them, to be a good dog and that you’ll be home soon—but it’s necessary.
  • Take your dog for a walk, run or some other energy-burning exercise before you leave. This is extremely helpful in reducing stress. A tired dog has a much greater chance of being a calm dog.
  • Enrich your dog’s environment. Try interactive games, puzzles and toys to keep your dog occupied. These toys and games don’t have to be expensive, and there’s plenty of more advanced canine entertainment available.
  • Long-lasting treats. Give your dog a stuffed Kong every time you leave, and your dog will soon look forward to your leaving! Try freezing them for a longer-lasting treat.
  • Leave music or the television on. Find something soothing to keep your dog company while you are gone.
  • Try a comfort vest like a ThunderShirt, which helps calm a lot of dogs when used properly.
  • Try herbal solutions and pheromones. Adaptil or D.A.P. products can help create a calm environment. Cannabidiol (CBD) is also gaining popularity as a treatment for canine anxiety, but evidence is lacking concerning its safety and efficacy. We currently do not recommend its use. Over-the-counter products containing alpha-casozepine and/or L-theanine are safe and effective for mild anxiety.
  • Be patient. It may just take time for your dog to adjust to your new schedule.

We’re here to help. If you’ve tried these tips but your pet is still exhibiting anxiety or destructiveness, we can prescribe medications such as trazodone, fluoxetine, and Sileo. Give us a call at (505) 265-4939 to schedule an appointment.