Almost one fifth of Aussie dogs were purchased during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey by Animal Medicines Australia. That means many pooches have had little to no experience of spending time alone.
Dog behaviouralist, trainer and author Lara Shannon said she’s already fielding calls from desperate dog owners reporting issues with separation anxiety.
If you’re returning to the office, she offers some tips to prepare your dog for your absence.
Help your dog cope with being alone
- Give them plenty of exercise, ideally not long before your departure.
- Keep their brains and bodies stimulated when left alone. Make them work for their treats. Leave them with food dispensing toys and puzzles; toss their dry food around the yard for them to sniff it out; freeze some meat or treats in an ice-cream container.
- If your dog digs up your garden, block off access to areas they like to dig in and make them a sandpit. You can bury treats and toys in it to encourage their digging in that designated spot to help relieve their boredom or anxiety (common reasons for digging).
- Use a dog walker to break up their day.
- Book them into doggy day care.
- In the lead up to returning to work, give your dog a treat or interactive toy then distance yourself from them three to five times a day, gradually increasing the amount of time they are left alone.
- Don’t make a big fuss when leaving or arriving home.
- Use calming sprays and pheromone diffusers or collars for dogs with mild anxiety.
- Definitely talk to your vet about medication options if your dog displays medium to severe anxiety.
Record Australian dog ownership along with offices reopening has seen interest in doggy day care skyrocket, with national dog care provider Kip seeing phone inquiries more than double month on month and trial day bookings at the centres spiking 50 per cent.
Sam Mendelson, Head of Daycare at Kip, said many owners are using Kip centres as part of a suite of tools to help their pets adjust and manage the challenges of separation anxiety, which can come with destructive behaviour, barking and digging.