More family time at home can be a joy for humans and pups alike: it means more attention and activities throughout the day with our four-legged friends. Unfortunately, negative behaviors can quickly surface if we humans abruptly leave our dogs alone or crated more often as we return to our normal routines. A little preparation, however, can avoid or mitigate potential issues and keep the good vibes going when your schedule shifts. Here are some great tip to helping your dog cope when you return to work.

 Dogs are creatures of habit – if their humans are around the house more regularly, they become conditioned to expect our presence. When kids return to school and adults return to work, pups do not understand why they are being left alone more often. The ensuing confusion may manifest itself in Separation Anxiety, a complex behavioral issue.  Symptoms of separation anxiety can include excessive howling and barking, inappropriate toileting, destructive behavior, excessive panting, pacing and drooling, or overexcitement when family members return home. 

How can we avoid these problems?   You don’t need to be away from home to reacclimate your dog to alone time.   You can practice separation while still around the house today! This simple, effective method teaches pups to be comfortable being left alone. Introducing the following exercises at least a week before schedules shift (more time is always better!) can quickly return dogs to normal.  Set specific pet and play times each day. If you are working from home, “leave” for work (isolate yourself from your dog) and only interact with your dog during “breaks.”  Do not allow your dog to follow you through the house.  Teach your dog to be comfortable some distance away from you or in their own space – perhaps in another room, or in their crate for short periods of time throughout the day, even when you don’t need them to be.  Practice leaving the house – casually gather your things and exit, then come back in without making a big fuss.  Start with short periods of time apart, then gradually work up to your dog being alone for roughly the same amount of time you will be gone when things return to normal. Webcams or baby monitors can be helpful tools to observe your dog’s behavior while separated 

Avoid boredom while you’re gone by scattering food (could be their kibble) throughout the house for them to scavenge.  Try a dog treat dispenser that dispenses treats at random times throughout the day.  Provide good quality, virtually indestructible toys for them to enjoy, perhaps ones that hold treats.  Rotate the toys every few days to hold your dog’s interest with something new and fun. Last, make sure you monitor your dog initially when playing with any new toy.   

 If your dog is overly excited when you return home, family members should avoid going directly to the dog’s area. Wait until your dog settles down and is not seeking attention before greeting him.  Then give him soft praise and gentle petting to keep him calm.   

 If you practice these exercises, you can help to ensure that your pup is comfortable, well-loved, and not glued to your hip. We love helping your dog cope when you return to work!

By Connie Archer, Bark Busters Home Dog Training,