Dog trainers warn of post-Covid separation anxiety

NEW BEDFORD, M.A. (WLNE) — As more people continue to get vaccinated, many will soon head back to the office for the first time in nearly a year.

For pets, this may be a tough transition as many have gotten used to their owners being home around the clock.

Many local dog trainers are expecting to see a major uptick in cases of separation anxiety.

“Dogs are creatures of habit and they go off of patterns,” explained Kaylee Bashaw of Willow’s Way Dog Training in Rehoboth.

“So if someone is always there, they’re going to get used to that,” Bashaw continued.

Signs of separation anxiety include whining, barking, and other destructive behavior when left alone.

If your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety, there are things you can do to help.

“The number one tip is to start working on it now,” said Kella Woodard with Willow’s Way Dog Training.

“If you’ve waited until it’s the week of going back to the office, you’ve waited way too long,” explained Woodard.

Experts suggest taking short trips out of the house without your dog to warm them up to being alone.

“Even separating yourself from the dog while you’re at home helps,” said Tim Riendeau of Harmonious Hounds Dog Training in Dartmouth.

“Even being in one part of the house while your dog is in another part, or if they’re on one side of a baby gate and you’re on the other side of the baby gate,” explained Riendeau.

Experts also recommend leaving work-to-play toys for your dog, like Kongs or puzzle toys.

“Even something as simple as a cardboard box stuffed with papers they can rip up,” said Woodard. “Any activities they can do during the day when they are bored or by themselves.”

Trainers also recommend not acknowledging your pet when you leave or come home for the day, as saying good-bye may trigger their anxiety.

White noise also helps reduce the chance of your dog getting spooked by outdoor noise, such as a delivery man or lawnmower.

“Leaving classical music on, leaving the news on, sometimes even diffusing lavender in the air is helpful for calming anxiety,” explained Bashaw.

If your dog is still suffering from high separation anxiety after a few months, professional training or medication prescribed by a veterinarian may be another solution.

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