Getting stuck at home can be a great excuse to spend more time with your dog. However, once your stay has come to an end, don’t expect your dog to be happy about you going back to work or spending longer periods of time away. They may not understand why, all of the sudden, you are leaving again. While you’re away, they may begin to show signs of distress, like barking and destructive chewing, and even have potty accidents or episodes of self-harm. These signs can be caused from Isolation Distress (ID) or Separation Anxiety (SA).
Dogs with ID show distress while alone. Their symptoms subside as long as someone is with them. They are not particular as to who. They may even be fine with another dog or animal in the home with them.
Dogs with SA show distress when one particular person is gone. They could be home with others in the family but still show symptoms of SA.
Seeing dogs with ID or SA is heartbreaking. We recommend consulting with your veterinarian for help. And there are also some measures you can take at home to help prevent the onset of ID and SA. Here are some tips to try during your extended home stay:
To desensitize, practice the cues randomly throughout the day. The idea is that you will present the cues but NOT actually leave. This will help undo the classical conditioning between the cues and you leaving, preventing anxiety build-up.
To take it a step further, you could even pair the cues with positive rewards like praise and treats, which work to change the conditioned response in your dog’s brain. The goal is to have your dog respond to your “leaving” cues with expectation of a reward rather than anxiety about you leaving.
Once you return to your normal routine, here are a few more tips to continue preventing ID and SA:
While getting to spend more time with your dog is the positive side to being stuck at home for long periods, it is important to take steps during your stay to prevent Separation Anxiety.