Helping Prevent Separation Anxiety During Lockdown

Image of dog being looked after

Our dogs have been getting very used to us being around all the time at the moment.  For a lot of them this will be quite unusual.  Whilst some may quickly adapt back to their old routine, others may struggle to go back to spending time alone.  Here we have a few key tips to make sure they stay confident with being home alone.

First things first, make sure they aren’t showing signs of anxiety when being left.  If they are then your approach will need to be different, as you will need to rebuild their confidence rather than maintain it.  To see how they cope alone, leave them momentarily with a camera set up.  If you don’t have a pet cam then a laptop or phone set up in the room they’re in will do the trick.  If they have the run on the house, set a camera up by the door you leave from.

What you want to see is your dog relaxed and settled when you’re not there.  Any pacing, whining, barking or not settling are key signs that your dog is seemingly anxious being left.  

If your dog is still comfortable being left, then the key is to maintain that with some simple additions to your new weekly routine.

Give them time alone.  With limited chances to go out, use times when you’re in the house to practise giving them some alone time.  Leave them in another room to you (potentially where you normally leave them to keep positive associations) with something fun to do.  Something like a frozen kong full of something tasty or similarly a licky mat will do the trick.

Miss a Dog Walk.  Obviously at the moment the only real time we can leave the house is to go for our daily exercise.  As dog owners this is normally focussed around taking them for a walk.  But to help your dog keep their home alone routine, why not leave them behind once a week while you go for a dog free walk leaving them to keep up that habit of being in the house by themselves.  Replace their walk that day with increased games and mental stimulation.

If you’d rather not.  If you would prefer not to forgo one of your dog’s walks, then there are other things you could do.  All of you going on the essential shopping trip and staying in the car while one person does the shopping could be one.  Or even just going to sit in your car on the drive for a while to read, play a game, catch up on emails etc.  It might seem strange, but it is a great way to give your dog that time by themselves.

Keep the routine.  If your dog is comfortable with you leaving them then try to keep to your normal leaving the house routine.  So even if you are just going to sit in the car for 20 minutes, still leave in the same manner you would if you were leaving to go out normally.  So leave them where you normally would, put your shoes on, get your keys, give them a treat if that’s something you would do.  All these things are signals to your dog of what is happening, it is good to keep them used to that and maintain that normality.

If your dog is distressed when you leave them then it is best to seek advice from a local trainer.  Click here to contact your local IMDT trainer.