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“Corona Puppies” May Face Separation Anxiety as Owners Return to Work

Morgan & her dog Zeke

One of the few good things about quarantine is that it provided plenty of time for you to adopt a puppy, foster an older dog, or just spend quality time with the companion you’ve loved for years. The two of you have been joined at the hip for the last two months. Your dog has become used to your showers of affection all day, every day. But as the Lehigh Valley transitions to the yellow phase and you return to your in-person job, your dog – whether he’s a new addition to the family or a long-time friend – may be at risk of developing separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is more than your pup just missing you. It’s stress that your dog may suffer in your absence, characterized by behaviors such as:

  • Urinating or defecating in the house
  • Digging or chewing
  • Pacing
  • Barking or howling
  • Excessive panting
  • Attempts to escape confinement

The onset of symptoms is quick, as your dog may display these behaviors as soon as 10 minutes after you leave home.

Even if your dog didn’t have separation anxiety before the pandemic, it’s still possible for him to get it now. He’s become accustomed to a schedule where you are in his life 24/7, and he may not know how to cope with a change in that routine. As for a puppy that has always been in your company for his entire life, imagine his shock when you suddenly vanish for eight hours per day.

Fortunately, there are some helpful tips that may prevent your dog from developing separation anxiety:

  1. Train your dog to stay in one room, without whining, while you are in a different room. This can help with overattachment issues, so your dog isn’t on top of you at all times.
  2. Adapt your schedule so that you leave the house for small amounts of time. Whether you decide to take a quick walk around your neighborhood or just chill in your garage, make sure that you give your dog a pastime while you’re gone, like a Kong ball stuffed with peanut butter or cheese. Not only will it keep your pup busy, it’ll help him realize that your leaving is a not-so-bad thing.
  3. Crate-train your dog. You may not need to close the door. The point of the crate is that it will give him a happy place to relax while he awaits your return.
  4. Play with your pup before you leave. Whether it’s a walk or playing ball, exercising your dog will make him tired and more likely to relax while you’re gone.
  5. Desensitize your dog to the signs that you’re going away. Instead of picking up your car keys and heading out the door, toss your dog a treat, pick up your keys, and watch TV. This way, your dog won’t get anxious when he sees you pick up your keys – because that sign of leaving has lost its meaning.
  6. Don’t yell at your dog if he displays any of the behaviors mentioned above. It’ll just make him more anxious.

Hopefully, with this advice, you and your pup will enjoy a long, comfortable relationship with one another. If you think your dog may have separation anxiety, consult your local veterinarian, who may provide behavioral counseling, refer you to trainers, or prescribe medication to help you and your dog.



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