Tips on reducing your pet’s separation anxiety as you go back to work

During the pandemic while many people were home, there was a jump in pet ownership. Now, many of those pets are experiencing separation anxiety.

As we move towards returning to work, Dr. Colleen Wilson, a vet and specialist in animal behaviour, joins us to talk about the best way to transition back to the office with your furry friend. 

According to the Royal Canin survey:

  • 60 per cent of Canadian pet owners say their pet is their best friend.
  • 64 per cent of Canadian pet owners say their pet has provided them with emotional support during the pandemic.
  • 48 per cent say they are more capable of managing their stress levels working or studying with their pet near them. 

Dr. Wilson says transitioning back to work can be hard on your pets, but there are ways to help.

Her first tip is to find out if your pet is experiencing separation anxiety. She says the best way to do this is to videotape your pet when you’re not at home. 

Wilson says there are also ways to figure out if your pet is experiencing separation anxiety before reviewing a video. Some clues include if your pet is constantly following you around or positioning themselves where they can always see or hear you.

“Sometimes people use the term ‘velcro dog,’” said Dr. Wilson. “So, if that’s the case and you do find out that you’re concerned about separation anxiety and you want to film or audio tape your dog, you only have to put that video camera nearby, it doesn’t need to be on the pet exactly.”

Dr. Wilson says some concerning behaviour to watch out for includes:

  • If your pet is causing destruction
  • If your pet is peeing in the house especially, if they are trained 
  • If your pet is excessively vocalizing.
  • If your pet is excessively salivating. 

The process of training your pet to deal with separation anxiety can begin even before you go back to work. Dr. Wilson says to practice having your pet feel good when you’re not in the same room. 

She says it is a good idea to start slowly and try giving them a treat or a toy puzzle to occupy them and make them feel good, then sneak away and see if you can be away from them. 

“Ever so slowly, you increase that time away,” said Dr. Wilson.

Some further attempts to teach independence at a faster pace include walking to the nearby mailbox or running a quick errand, without ensuring the pet is relaxed and feeling good in your absence. This can lead to “sensitization”. Dr. Wilson says this means your pet it easily triggered to feel anxious whenever the owner leaves. If attempts at independence training are not successful, Dr. Wilson says it is time to consult with your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist to discuss other treatment options.