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How to Reduce Separation Anxiety For Your Pet After Working from Home
The past year of quarantine mandates meant seeing less and less of other people in our lives. But for our pets, it meant having a constant companion at home all day, every day. Some pet owners even adopted dogs and cats at the beginning of quarantine, meaning that their furry friend has never been far from their favorite person.
However, with COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, more and more people are starting to return to the office. That means that for the first time in a long time, our pets are now going to be home alone. What do you need to do to ensure that your pet is ready to be independent? What can you do to prevent separation anxiety in dogs?
We have all the tips you need to know to ensure that your pet adjusts to being independent and happy while you’re back in the office.
What is Separation Anxiety?
First, let’s address what separation anxiety is and how it affects your dogs and cats.
Separation anxiety is when your dog or cat experiences distress when they are away from their owner, often resulting in behavioral issues. Many of the common symptoms are:
- Scratching doors and windows
- Barking, meowing, whining, and crying before and after you leave the house
- Increased chewing, especially on hard surfaces such as furniture and door frames
- Going to the bathroom in the house or outside of the litter box, despite being house-trained
If your pet is exhibiting any of these behaviors, then they might be suffering from separation anxiety. Luckily, you can help teach your dog and cat that being alone at the house isn’t as distressing as they fear it will be.
How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Some pets won’t have separation anxiety when you return back to the office. Even so, every pet has feelings, and it’s best to prepare them as much as possible for being alone throughout the day. These steps will help make the transition to independent alone time as smooth as possible for your pet.
- Create a Routine. Get your pets in the habit of expecting walks, playtime, and food only during the times of day where you will be back from the office. Get up extra early to take your dog on a walk around the neighborhood. Feed your cat dinner when you are back home from the office. Even on the weekends or the days you’re not in the office, maintain this schedule. Doing this will prevent your dog and cat from feeling as though they need you during the middle of the workday.
- Leave Them Alone. Before going back to the office, practice leaving your pets alone for short periods of time. This might mean going for walks or drives without your dog, or leaving your cat inside while you sit on the porch for a bit. Start with leaving for short periods of time and gradually lengthening the duration. Make sure to praise your pet when you get home for their good behavior. If they chewed up the table or urinated on the floor, shorten the duration again.
Note: Like with any new behavior, training takes time and patience. Be kind to your pets. This is scary for them, and they need lots of love and attention as they try to get used to being alone. If this stage is tough for them, you can investigate how to use relaxants to keep your pet calm during this time.
- Make Being Alone Fun. If your dog or cat is being destructive around the house, they might be frustrated and bored during your absence. Make sure they have plenty of toys and activities they can do by themselves. Scratching posts and dog treat puzzles are ideal. To help them associate being alone as a good thing, make sure to give your dog and cat a treat as you leave. This will help train them to see you leaving as a less threatening experience.
- Install a Pet Door. If you have let your dog out to pee whenever they needed to while you were working from home, then they are not going to be used to waiting for you to get home in order to go to the bathroom. Getting a pet door like the Endura Flap will prevent accidents. Plus, access to the backyard will add enrichment to their lives and prevent boredom, which means less destructive behavior. A pet door can also be great for your cat, especially if they live with a dog. Installing a cat flap leading to the laundry room or another private area of the house will give them space away from the dog, reducing stress for both of your pets.
- More Walks and Playtime. When you are home, make sure to give your cat and dog plenty of attention with walks and playtime to prevent separation anxiety in dogs. Excess energy leads to boredom and separation anxiety. Working out with your pets or making sure they expel a lot of energy before you leave will often mean that they will snooze away their alone time. Having an outlet for their energy will leave them calmer and more relaxed overall.
- Find a Way to Keep Your Pet Company. If all else fails, it might be best to invest in a pet walking service, a pet sitter, or a pet daycare. Each option has their own benefits, and it’s up to use to decide which one will best fit the needs of your pet without breaking your budget.
Using these methods, transiting your pet away from your work from home lifestyle will go much more smoothly. Be sure to check out our advice for choosing between a door mount or wall mount pet door, or even our thoughts on pet doors for sliding glass doors.