If your dog has enjoyed having you at home more than usual during lockdown, you may be concerned about how they will cope once things return to normal. Dogs can become used to new routines very quickly, so if you have been spending all day with your dog they may struggle to adjust to your sudden absence (even if they were previously comfortable spending time at home alone.
The following tips should help to ease your dog back into their usual routine and minimise the risk of any separation related issues developing as a result of lockdown.
- Prevention is always better than cure! If you know you’re going to be returning to work or spending more time out of the house in the near future, start preparing your dog for this change now. Once you have no choice but to leave your dog regularly, it will be much more difficult to deal with any issues which might arise.
- If your dog’s daily routine is going to change once you go back to work, start settling them back into that routine now. For example, will they be fed or walked at different times, will their walks be shorter or less frequent, will they get up or go to bed at different times? Try to return to the routine you followed pre-lockdown.
- Start building up time alone gradually. If your dog has been spending all day with you and following you around the house, you’ll need to make things easy to begin with. Try shutting an inside door between you and your dog for very short periods during the day. For example, when you go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, or when you have a shower (yes, we know there are a lot of hounds who like to supervise everything!).
- If you have a dog gate, use this to set up a gentle intro to longer periods alone. Shut the gate between you and your dog and provide them with something tasty to keep them busy (e.g. a chew or food filled toy). Stay within sight of them to start with, until you can see that they are comfortable being separated from you. You can then start moving out of view for short periods, then for longer periods as long as your dog does not become distressed.
- Once your dog is comfortable with the above process, go through it again but this time with an internal door closed between you and your dog. When your dog is comfortable with spending time in a separate room and with you out of sight, start leaving the house for short periods which can be increased gradually. Try using a web cam or mobile phone to watch your dog when you leave the house – if they seem distressed at any point, you may need to make things easier and increase the time alone more gradually.
- Remember always to leave your dog with something they enjoy (e.g. a food filled toy or chew) so that they start to associate you leaving with something positive. Try to leave them with a few things to keep them occupied whilst you’re out, along with access to fresh water and a comfortable bed in an area in which they feel safe and relaxed.
- Our “Spending Time Alone” fact sheet has more hints and tips on helping your dog feel comfortable when you’re not with them.
- If you think your dog is showing signs of separation related distress, please seek the help of a qualified dog behaviourist. Separation issues can be caused by a variety of underlying emotions and each case will need an individual approach. If you have adopted a Forever Hounds Trust dog, we provide ongoing behavioural support free of charge.