EASE DOGS ANXIETY AS YOU HEAD BACK TO WORK

During the height of the COVID19 Pandemic, many companies set their employees up to work virtually, from home. There were pros and cons for us humans, but our dogs LOVED it!  Their people were always home with them, giving them attention and love all day, every day.  Now that the world is getting back on it's feet, people are getting back to working outside the home. But that can leave our dogs feeling confused, not understanding why suddenly we are leaving them alone every day. How can you ease dogs anxiety as you head back to work outside the home?

Going back to work outside the home may seem like second nature to us, but it can leave our dogs, cats or other pets feeling abandoned. They may not understand why suddenly you're leaving the house every day for hours and hours, why you're leaving THEM every day.


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How To Ease Dogs Anxiety As You Head Back To Work

Changes in daily routine, coupled with the absence of their people can be very unsettling to dogs. My dogs don't like it when I make the slightest change in their routine - dinner at 6 instead of 5:30? Icy lets me know she won't stand for it! My cat Maggie used to freak out if I moved a piece of furniture to a new position!  

HOW TO EASE DOGS ANXIETY AS YOU HEAD BACK TO WORK

How can you ease your dog's anxiety now that you're getting back to your old routine, leaving the house for work daily? There are a few things you can do to raise your dog's comfort level and help her through the transition of you leaving her alone at home each day.

🐾 It sounds obvious, but try to spend some extra time with your dog as you head back to work. Can you squeeze in an early morning dog walk, or extend the time of her morning potty walk? If mornings won't work, perhaps you can add more evening walks, or make evening walks longer. 

Morning walks burn energy and can tire your dog out for much of the day. It can also lower her stress level. Evening walks will give your dog something to look forward to at the end of each day. Once she knows that a long walk will come at the end of the day when you return, she'll expect it and look forward to it.

🐾 Plan weekend outings with your pup. It doesn't have to be a 5 mile hike every weekend. It can be a Starbucks coffee in the morning or a Dairy Queen ice cream in late afternoon. 

My dogs love our Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts outings! They jump in the car and start getting excited, knowing we're going somewhere fun together. 

We bring along chew sticks for them. They lay on the concrete enjoying their chew sticks, the open air breezes, and friendly people coming over to say hello. Starbucks will even give them a Puppuccino, which is whipped cream in a small cup or lid. Boy do they LOVE Puppuccinos! 

🐾 A family walk in a dog friendly park or hiking trail is a great way to remind your pup she’s still an important part of the family - her pack! It burns lots of energy too.

🐾 Get a new toy, preferably something a little different like a puzzle toy. A puzzle toy or other interactive toy such as a squirrel nesting toy, is challenging play and a great distraction for dogs.

Puzzle toys not only challenge a dog's brain, but the mental stimulation can tire them out almost as much as physical activity.  Puzzle toys can be a great early morning activity for your dog while you get ready for work. As you can see in this video, Icy and Phoebe love them! This one is the Dog Tornado, from Outward Hound



🐾 If you have the budget for it, you can enroll your dog in Doggie Daycamp 2 or 3 days a week. You’d be shocked at how much energy dogs burn in doggie daycamp! This supervised play with other dogs can be tons of fun and will really tire them out. You know how the saying goes, A Tired Dog is a Happy Dog!  

Keeping your dog well exercised throughout the week can help avoid dog anxiety and destructive dog behaviors in the house while you’re away at work.

🐾 Another alternative is to hire a pet sitter or dog walker a couple of days a week. You might be able to convince a family member or trusted neighbor kid to visit with your dog or take him for a walk mid day. 

The dog gets a friendly visit from a familiar human, and either a walk or some playtime. These visits can relax your dog and help avert a dog's loneliness and boredom.

🐾 Even something as simple as giving your dog an extra special treat just as you leave the house can be really helpful. It’s something the dog can look forward to each morning, rather than getting stressed and anxious watching you prepare to leave the house. She'll focus on enjoying her special treat or toy while you quietly leave the house. Don't make a fuss about leaving, just go! Big goodbyes and a lot of fuss will get your dog excited and may create stress.

Be careful though, don’t make the treat something that will cause your dog to need to potty right afterwards!  Something simple like a tasty chew stick that will last a few minutes, or a special toy you only bring out when you’re heading to work.  Something that will occupy them for maybe 5 minutes after you’ve left the house. It interrupts their anxiety and gives them something positive and enjoyable to focus on.

When we were crate training Icy as a puppy, on the (not so good) advice of a trainer I left a Kong stuffed with peanut butter in the crate with her and left the house for 30 minutes. Oh man, what a mistake! I won't get into the gross details, but when we returned her crate was a mess and Icy was extremely distressed at having messed up her crate. I never left a dog unattended with a treat stuffed toy again. Lesson Learned! I still feel guilty about that, 12 years later.

🐾 Enrolling in a fun dog training class together puts all the attention on her and lets your dog know how special she still is. A dog agility class or a tricks training class can be a lot of fun for the whole family. And it helps re-enforce basic training commands, it's a win-win!

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Ease Dogs Anxiety as you Head Back To Work

However, if your dog is still extremely anxious when you leave the house or is being destructive, get back to basics. The act of you leaving the house, and him building up to the moment you will actually walk out the door is probably what's causing extreme anxiety. The dog's tension increases as he picks up on the cues that you are getting ready to leave him.

🐾 On your days off, practice the act of you leaving the house and work to create positive associations with you leaving. Try this exercise: Get ready to leave the house, just as you would each workday. But before you walk out the door, give your dog a chew stick or toy. As he starts getting engaged with his special treat or toy, quietly leave the house without making a fuss. Wait about 2 minutes and walk back inside.  

Do this numerous times, getting your dog used to you leaving but coming right back in. You want him to realize that you leaving means he'll get a special chew stick or toy, something he'll look forward to. Don't make a big deal out of leaving the house, just do it quietly and swiftly as your dog is enjoying his treat.  

When you come back in don't make a fuss either, just walk right in past your dog. When your dog is calm, not excited at your return, you can give the hugs & kisses!

I still do this with Phoebe when we take Icy somewhere but need to leave Phoebe behind. John and Icy go out to the car. Just before I walk out the door I give Phoebe one of her favorite chew sticks. As she starts enjoying her treat, I quietly leave the house. She's so focused on the chew stick she barely realizes I'm leaving. She used to get anxious when we would leave her alone, but I've paired something positive with her being left home alone, and it works!


MORE HELP FOR A DOG WITH ANXIETY WHEN LEFT ALONE


If none of these ideas work for your dog and she's still experiencing extreme anxiety, you can try one of these methods for Calming a dog's anxiety:

✦ Give your dog some calming treats like Therabis Calm and Quiet dog treats. I give them to Icy to get her through thunderstorms and fireworks. Some folks successfully use a dog anxiety vest to calm their dog's anxiety.

✦ Work with a dog trainer. A few one on one sessions can often help dogs conquer separation anxiety.

These are just a few ideas to help ease dogs anxiety as you head back to work.  What other ideas can you suggest to reduce a dog's anxiety?  Please leave a comment and share your dog anxiety relief success stories!