Many of us are returning to our offices and classrooms, and that means separation from our pups. For more than a year, we've been at home with our sweet fur babies 24/7. If all of a sudden you are gone for a big part of the week, that's a huge change for your dog.

Dogs love a routine. They like getting their meals and going for walks at the same time every day. They even love having a regular bedtime. Yes, they are adaptable. But they do have their limits. If you adopted your pup during the pandemic, the only life they know is having you in the house all of the time. That can make the separation more difficult.

What is Separation Distress?

Sad dog waiting alone at home. Labrador retriever looking through window during rain.

Separation distress is when your pet experiences a feeling of anxiety or panic when they are separated from their human. The signs most commonly associated with this disorder are destructive behavior, salivation, urination or defecation indoors or in unwanted locations, vocalizing, and self-trauma.

In severe cases, a dog with separation distress may try to escape, break through windows or fences, chew through doors or walls, or show dangerous behavior when they're in a panic.

When you are preparing to leave home, you might see signs of anxiety in your dog, like pacing, panting, jumping on you for attention, and avoiding confinement areas. If your dog is showing any of these signs, it's time to take him to the doctor.

You'll need a vet's diagnosis to confirm separation distress. Luckily, there's a lot they can do to treat it. There's also plenty of things you can do to help prevent the separation distress and prepare your pup for post-pandemic life.

Gradually Prepare Your Dog for This Big Change

Bored young golden retriever dog under light gray plaid. Pet warms under a blanket in cold winter weather. Pets friendly and care concept.

According to experts, you should gradually prepare your dog for when life goes back to "normal." Start to establish a routine that you will keep when you are out of the house for a big part of the day. Think about things like when you wake up and when you go to bed, when you feed your pup, the temperature of your home, and the light-dark cycle.

Before you head back to work or school, start including some alone time for your pup. Run some errands, go for a walk on your own, or take a short drive just to let them adjust to the idea of being by themselves again. You have to remind them that you will leave on a daily basis, but you'll always come back.

If your pup shows signs of distress when you're gone–like peeing inappropriately or barking uncontrollably–reduce the intensity of what you're doing. If your dog is distressed when you've only been gone 20 minutes, take a step back. Go outside and count to 10 before coming back in. If that works, go outside and count to 20. It's all about baby steps.

Meet Their Needs With the New Routine

A young woman sitting indoors by the door on the floor at home, playing with a dog.

To remain healthy both physically and mentally, your dog must have its daily needs met. They need proper nutrition, grooming, exercise, and mental stimulation. They also need social interactions with family members, as well as time alone for calm rest.

When you are developing your new routine for post-pandemic life, include a plan for meeting the needs of your pup on a daily basis. The stability will reduce their anxiety, but the routine doesn't have to be strict. It does, however, need to be regular.

If you can't do the same activity at the same time every day, just make sure you allow time every day for each activity. Maintaining a good routine can help protect your pup from separation distress as your family starts spending more and more time away from home.

Independence Training

woman gives a command to her mixed breed dog

If you adopted your pup during the pandemic, you can teach them to be on their own. Even if your dog was part of your family before the lockdowns, they've forgotten their pre-pandemic routine. They can be taught once again to be on their own.

Independence training teaches your pet to be comfortable when you're gone, and to relax without needing to follow you around everywhere. Downtime is a type of independence training where you build time into the day that allows for your pet to relax and take a nap without any planned interaction.

When you incorporate downtime, give your pup a chew toy, a stuffed treat holder, a food dispensing toy, or meal in the desired location. You may want to anchor the food dispenser to encourage your pup to stay put and to prevent them from following you.

If your pet is comfortable and relaxed, give them a reward and move on with your planned activities. If they show distress in their body language, you'll need to start more slowly and work your way to proper downtime.

Australian shepherd attentive

Another independence training exercise is Go To Place. It teaches your pup to move away on their own and settle down in a specific location, like a crate, mat, pen, bed, or room. Using a clicker is recommended to teach this skill.

Click when your pup is doing exactly what they are supposed to do. After you click, give your dog a treat. The click will tell your dog "yes," and it will also indicate a treat is on the way.

Use your clicker for Go To Place training with luring. Start by standing next to the mat, crate, room, or whatever place you have chosen for your pet to settle down. Point to the place and drop a treat. When your dog goes to the treat, click when they touch the place and drop another treat.

Reset by tossing a treat away from the chosen place. Keep repeating this exercise until your pet goes to the spot you are pointing to quickly and easily.

Medterra Pet CBD Calming Chews

Dog is lying on back on the bed - selective focus

Separation anxiety can be treated with medication. To help your pet with this transition, consider using Medterra Pet CBD Calming Chews. This CBD product will help keep your pup happy and relaxed when you're out of the house. Medterra also offers CBD oils and tinctures to help keep your dog happy. Yes, your dog can enjoy the benefits of CBD, just like people do.

If you are concerned your dog may have separation distress when you return to work or school, give these methods a try. If the distress continues, be sure to consult your vet.

Related Reading

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  3. 26 Puppers Living Their Best Lives In Quarantine
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