News & Advice

Worried about your dog having separation anxiety after lockdown?

Aug 25, 2021 | Behaviour, Dogs, Pet Health

Dr Lucy Scott, BVSc MANZCVS (Veterinary Behaviour), Veterinary Behaviour NZ

When we came out of lockdown last year, we found a lot of dogs had become used to their humans being home and struggled with them leaving again. While our canine friends are a great help during this time, they can become dependent on us being around, and then struggle when the routine returns to our ‘normal’.

Separation-related behaviours are those that occur when dogs are left by their owners. These behaviours can be related to fear, anxiety, over-attachment, or lack of stimulation (boredom!). Destruction and elimination may not necessarily be related to anxiety but can be very frustrating for pet owners.

Of particular concern are dogs that are suffering from separation anxiety. These distressed dogs can show signs when alone such as:

  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Escape behaviours (scratching at doors, destroying crates)
  • Depression, lethargy
  • Destruction
  • Vocalisation (barking, howling or whining)
  • Toileting inside
  • Self-trauma (licking or chewing themselves)

Dogs experiencing this can do considerable damage to themselves and your home.

To prevent you from going back to work being a shock to your dogs, here are some things we can do during lockdown to ensure they are ok with being left alone:

  • Attempt to keep their routine as normal as possible- feeding, walking, play and rest times. Try not to significantly increase their walk times, as they may miss it when you return to work!
  • Ensure they have time alone several times a day. Set it up as you would usually do when going to work if possible. If your dog is usually left out in the house, shut your office door and give them their usual time alone. Ensure kids understand this is your dog’s rest-time.
  • Encourage individual play and offer them treat-dispensing toys when you are home. These can be used when you leave also (just make sure your dog doesn’t associate them only with you leaving!).
  • Don’t take your dog with you everywhere. If you go for a walk, don’t always take them with you! If you notice any signs of distress, take it back a step to a place your dog is comfortable with.

These tips are just as (or more!) important for puppies and new dogs you acquired just before lockdown. Ensure they are happy being left alone for short periods and slowly build it up so that they are comfortable with being left alone when you go back to work.

If you are concerned about your dogs’ reaction to your return to work, call us now to have a plan in place.


With Thanks to Lucy Scott for supplying this article visit her website here


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