Home Alone: Your Post-Pandemic Guide to Ease Your Dog’s Anxiety When You Return to Work
This past year, many people have been working from home with their pets right by their side (or on their keyboard, or under their office chair) and these pets aren't used to being home alone the way they were in the past—new puppies may have never been home alone all day before!
In 2020 and 2021 pets have been adopted at an amazing rate, clearing shelters across the country. In fact, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) COVID-19 Pulse Study, more than 12 million households said they had gotten a new pet by the end of 2020.
As COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up in the U.S. and pet parents start to think about return-to-work plans, is your dog ready for the transition back to "normal" life? Or maybe the better question is are YOU ready to be separated from your dog?
If the answer is, "I can't imagine ever being away from my fur baby all day again," the team at Daily Paws has put together a free 14-day plan designed by a certified professional dog trainer and backed by animal behavior experts to help you get your pup back on track post-pandemic.
Download a printable PDF of this chart here to hang on your fridge and keep track of your progress!
Day 1: Recognize the signs of stress and anxiety in your dog.
It's important to recognize signs that your dog is feeling anxious or stressed. Paying close attention to your dog's behavior and body language when you leave is a good indicator about how they will feel while you are gone.
What Your Dog's Body Language Is Trying to Tell YouThey may not be able to speak, but dogs can communicate what they're thinking and feeling through body language. Learn how to pick up on their cues to enrich your relationship and keep both you and your pet safe.
Separation Anxiety in Dogs is More Common Than You Think—Here’s How To Recognize and Treat The SignsHow can you recognize signs of separation anxiety in your dog? We spoke with veterinarian Kit Darling on a few ways to help your pup overcome their anxiety.
Day 2: Create a safe space for your dog.
To keep your canine friend safe and happy while you are away, create a special safe space in your home they can hang out in. Your bedroom or kitchen are great options that can be easily modified with baby gates and dog-friendly furniture.
Use a baby gate to separate your dog's space from the rest of the home. In a quiet corner, place your dog's kennel or crate, favorite mat or dog bed and blanket, and a water bowl they can easily access. A white noise machine can help keep your canine feeling calm, too.
Puppy tip: Kitchens make great places for puppies, depending on the floor material. Try placing a puppy pee pad in one section of the space and an open kennel or crate in another.
Day 3: Provide enrichment toys to prevent boredom.
14 Nearly Indestructible Dog Toys for Enthusiastic Chewers of All SizesIf your dog has a knack for destroying whatever plaything you provide—be it plush, plastic, or rope—try one of these heavy-duty picks that get top marks from dog owners.
Day 4: Dog-proof your home.
No matter the age of your dog, your home needs to be a safe space for them. Spend time going through each room and dog-proofing the space.
Specifically, pick up everything from floors, close doors to all closets and cabinets, and consider adding baby-safe locks to cabinet doors. Use baby gates to block off areas full of things your dog might chew. (A kid's room in particular is full of tiny things that can become dangerous for curious dogs!)
Day 5: Hire help if you need it.
Day 6: Teach your dog new cues.
Teaching your dog some essential skills and cues is a great way to engage their brain before you leave each day, leaving them to feel a bit more at ease and even a little tired.
Here are some can-do cues you and your dog will have fun learning together:
6 Easy Tips to Train Your Dog With Positive ReinforcementPositive reinforcement is the best way to teach dogs new behaviors or change old habits. Learn what makes this dog training method so great and how to get started.
Day 7: Create a consistent schedule.
Week 1 Complete!
You're halfway there! Check off all the progress you've made, and celebrate with an impromptu living room dance paw-ty.
Ready for week two? In the second week of this program, you'll be focusing on practicing leaving your pet for increasing periods of time to get them accustomed to being home alone.
Day 8: Make crate time enjoyable.
Day 9: Practice crate stays while at home.
Day 10: Go outside (alone).
The first day you practice leaving your dog at home alone is very short—just go outside and grab the mail or walk around your yard for a few minutes and then immediately return.
This is a great day to start journaling, too. It's helpful to keep a notebook of your dog's body language signals right before and right after you leave your home.
- What do your dog's ears look like?
- What is their tail doing?
- Are they panting or drooling?
Keeping a journal and paying attention to changes in your dog's body language goes a long way in helping you determine how your dog is handling the separation from you day-to-day.
Day 11: Walk around the block (alone).
Day 12: Get your dog used to the sights and sounds of leaving.
Day 13: Go for a drive (alone).
Day 14: Increase your time away.
Week 2 Complete!
Check off everything you've accomplished.
You did it! But you're not quite done just yet. Your relationship with your pet becomes stronger the more you nurture it, and getting your dog completely comfortable with being alone takes time.
Now take the tips you've learned and practice continuous enrichment to strengthen your bond with your dog—and make sure she's living a happy and healthy life every day.