Chances are your dog got used to you being home as we sheltered in place. Or maybe you adopted at dog during the Covid-19 shutdown. Because dogs are social creatures, having you home has been a dream come true for them. We’ve had the time to take more walks, play more games, and even the kids have been home!
However, there is a downside to all this time together: your dog now expects you to be home. As businesses open up and people return to work, dogs do not understand why they are suddenly left alone. Where did everyone go? This often causes a behavioral problem called separation anxiety which when caught early produces better results.
Signs of separation anxiety
Your dog may begin to bark, howl, toilet in the house, engage in destructive behavior (like chewing and digging), pace and drool and more. He is anxious. I have seen dogs tear through drywall, escape from impenetrable fences, escape from crates, and bloody their paw trying to dog through gates.
Unfortunately, there is no “magic pill” to help your dog. The key is he must learn to be okay being alone.
Take it Slow
Some breeds of dogs are okay with being alone. It particularly helps if you have two dogs. You need to start conditioning your dog to being alone and not always being the center of attention.
Your dog can’t be glued to your hip and should spend some time alone in your house every day. This could be while your shower and get ready for the day. If you are crate training, he should spend some time in his crate every day when you are in the house.
Next, it’s time to leave him at home by himself. First go away for five minutes. Yes, he will probably bark and howl. He will see that you come back home. Continue to do this every day, increasing the time more and more.
If your dog is extremely social, you may want to take him to doggie daycare at least a couple of days while you are gone. A dog walker is another good option. Leave your dog with interactive toys so he doesn’t get bored. Bored dogs are destructive dogs.
Don’t punish your dog when you get home if he has caused some destruction because he will forget what they did and by then they will “no longer associate punishment with the action.
When in doubt call in a professional dog trainer or ask your veterinarian about some anti-anxiety medication. Don’t blame your dog … he’s just lonely and depressed!