Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavior issues that we see in dogs. While we have always seen this behavior in a portion of dogs, there was a big uptick in it during the pandemic and it has persisted to current times.
There are a couple of reasons for this uptick in separation anxiety, and understanding those reasons helps us to work through the issue.
Lack of Healthy SEPARATION
People who work from home get to spend a lot of time with their dogs. This is fantastic for bonding, for making sure your dog gets plenty of attention and exercise, and for building an overall great relationship with your dog. The problem with this is that it does not provide the chance for your dog to feel comfortable being separated from you. You leaving, even for short periods of time, can cause stress and anxiety because it’s outside the norm for what your dog is used to.
Separation doesn’t have to come from crating your dog. We can build healthy separation in a lot of ways. Teaching commands like place and stay gives us a chance through obedience to create a positive association with separation. It allows us to teach our dog how to relax and keep a cool head while we walk away from them. Crating is also important to take into consideration, because you never know when your dog will need to spend some time in a crate. One of my dogs just had to have a dental procedure where she was at the vet all day long. When not in surgery, she is in a kennel there while waiting and while waking up.
Because she is comfortable being in the crate, this is a low stress situation for her. Dogs who are not accustomed to crate training will get stressed and worried, and that can lead to them developing issues going to the vet.
Getting Home From Work
Another common reason for dogs to develop separation anxiety is a big variation in excitement when you are gone versus when you are home. When we get home from work, one of the first things we want to do is have a big reunion with our dog! This marks a huge change from the rest of your dog’s day, where everything was chill and relaxed at home. Anticipation of this big excitement spike can cause dogs to get very anxious and overstimulated.
As hard as it is, the best thing you can do is to mostly ignore your dog for the first 15 minutes that you are home. This prevents that huge excitement spike. Once your dog has settled down and relaxed, then you can give them as much attention as you want. That small 15 minute period makes a big difference in how your dog perceives you returning, which in turn makes a difference in how they perceive you leaving.