How to ease pet ‘separation anxiety’ as more of us return to the office

Table of Contents TrainingRead MoreRelated ArticlesRead MoreRelated ArticlesProductsRoutineCreature comfortsRead MoreRelated ArticlesRead MoreRelated Articles Although plenty…

Although plenty of us are still working from home, others have been making trips to work as restrictions ease up and Scotland prepares to move beyond Level 0.

And whilst we may not be there five days a week at the moment, just one day away from home can cause separation anxiety in our pets – especially in dogs.

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, around 3.2 million people have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic, and as restrictions ease, our furry friends may wonder why we’re heading out more given we’ve been at home for so long.

SSPCA Chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “We predicted an increase in unwanted animals last year after an explosion in demand for pets among people at home due to the pandemic.



Between September 2020 and January 2021, the SSPCA received 476 calls from people looking to give up their animals.

“Whilst not such a big issue for kittens, a generation of pups will have grown up in a household where the family is often around. Once that situation changes it can be hard for a dog to adjust and this can lead to behavioural issues and separation anxiety. These issues can lead to dogs being destructive and it is at this point many owners considering giving their pet up.

“What they don’t realise is that the dog is acting this way because of its own experiences not because of any ingrained issue.”



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Separation anxiety in dogs can manifest itself in a number of different ways. This can range from barking to having toilet accidents such as peeing in the home.

Some signs are not so obvious however meaning that the owner may not even be aware that their pet is suffering.

Experts at the UK’s largest pet rehoming site, Pets4Homes told Glasgow Live that other physical signs of stress which owners should look out for include drooling, shaking and licking their lips or any other behaviour that may be out of character for them.

If you’re worried about your pet as you return to work, here’s some tips you can use to help lessen pet anxiety:

Training

The quickest way to get a dog accustomed to spending time on their own is to give them short, controlled practice runs.

You can do this by leaving your dog in a room by themselves, for a few seconds at first, and then re-entering the room. This will help them gradually acclimatise to being by themselves.

You can increase time intervals by a minute or a few minutes each time, until your dog is able to spend a period of an hour or more alone. These controlled trial runs make the transition to being more independent more manageable.

Dogs can often pick up on signs that you are leaving and will start to panic if they, for example, hear you pick up keys or see you put on a coat.

In order to break down your dog’s association between your preparations to leave the house and anxiety, you can begin by picking up coats, keys and bags at various times throughout the day, then sitting down or continuing with your day such as watching TV. This can help your dog to avoid an immediate stress response each time you head out of the door.

Products

There are some products available which can help to reduce anxiety in dogs while they are by themselves. Compression shirts are commonly used during fireworks to ease dogs’ anxiety, which they do by mimicking the feel of being held or hugged, providing them with some physical reassurance.

You can also buy pheromone sprays which use naturally occurring chemicals to reduce stress and anxiety in dogs. It is recommended that you start using them around a week before you want their calming effects to work fully. These sprays are completely safe to use, but if you have any concerns about introducing new products to your pet’s environment, you should consult a vet first.

Routine

Restless pets are more likely to be anxious, so a good way to manage your dog’s stress levels is to incorporate a healthy amount of exercise into their routine.

For dogs, this usually means two walks a day, although the length and intensity of these walks depends on their size, breed and age. Using up any excess energy may help to reduce dogs’ anxiety about being alone in the house and help them to relax while they are alone.

Creature comforts

Make sure your dog has familiar toys and objects around them as this can help them to feel more at home whilst alone.

Leaving them with something to occupy them, such as a game, can also help to prevent restlessness and anxiety.

It may also be helpful to give your dog a space that they can treat as their own, such as a carrier, so that they can have somewhere to relax when they are feeling stressed.