Whilst our dogs are all loving us being stuck at home at the moment, the sudden shock of us all going back to work and leaving them again could in fact see a sudden increase in separation related issues!
Our dogs are getting so used to us being around them all day, everyday, that suddenly when we aren't anymore they could become distressed, start vocalising, become destructive or even start toileting in the house. Puppies will struggle particularly with this if they've never been left before, and if people being around 100% of the time is all they've ever known.
So what can you do to prevent your dog from becoming distressed? - Start being unavailable to your dog some of the time. So, leave your dog in one room whilst you go into another, go and sit in the garden and leave your dog in the house. This will obviously depend on how comfortable your dog is; you can start with leaving for literally seconds at a time and building up on duration gradually.
- Give them things to do that don't involve input from you and that help build independence, for example stuffed kongs, lickimats, puzzle toys. You can even attach these toys to crates or to objects in certain rooms so the dog has to move away from you to go and eat from them.
- Work on boundary training, get them used to settling away from you on their bed, mat or in their crate. If you had been crate training then keep reinforcing the crate as a good place to be! You might have to start with their bed or crate right next to you in the same room, but you can gradually move it further and further away, eventually even into a different room or behind a stair gate.
- Build your dogs confidence! Play some games with them to help boost their optimism: games like cardboard chaos, surprise novelty party and paws up are all good places to start! Introduce new kinds of puzzle food toys that they can use. - Try and start building a routine, similar to what the dog will experience when you eventually go back to work. So get up, feed them, exercise them and get them settled at a similar time to what is going to be likely in the future. That way you can work on any problems that might develop before you go back to work and whilst you have the time to!
If your dog is already experiencing separation related issues then now would be the time to get in touch with a behaviourist to help both you and your dog put a plan in place before you go back to work!