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Returning to the Office? - Separation Anxiety Tips

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Kirsten Dillon: Animal Behaviourist and Canine Specialist understands the difficulties that many dog owners are facing under the current climate and has offered her expertise especially for our Natural Instinct community!

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease across the UK and many pet owners return to work, it is no surprise that demand for home gadgets such as pet cameras and dog walking services have soared.[i]
One of the positives to come out of lockdown is that dog owners have an increased understanding of their pet’s behaviours and needs. In fact, three quarters of dog owners (77%) fear their pets will feel lonely and experience separation anxiety as they make a return to ‘normal life’.[ii]
Studies have shown that at least 50% of all dogs have separation issues. With this in mind, it is incredibly important we make the transition of leaving our pets to return to work as smooth as possible.  
  1. Work from home whenever possible. You have a strong bond with your dog and unfortunately there is no substitute for your company. Failing that, send your dog to a friend or relative’s house, so they have human company. Or lastly, employ the services of a good pet sitter or dog walker and work heavily on creating a bond between them and your dog before you have to return to work.
  2. Don’t enforce separation before you need to. It’s stressful for you, and for your dog, instead work on building up a confident dog that can genuinely cope with periods of isolation. This can be done by making walks far more challenging and playing lots of games such as searches and parkour, the aim is to find things that are different to previous walks, things your dog hasn’t done before which are very slightly challenging and will develop confidence.
  3. Practice making your dog calm instead of trying to wear them out through rigorous exercise. We don’t want to leave behind an excited and adrenalised dog, it is far better to leave them calmed and relaxed. Give them a massage before you leave!
  4. Play lots of brain games around the house. Feed exclusively from Kongs to get the brain producing the right chemicals, but also scatter food and treats to encourage natural foraging. Introduce puzzle feeders which you can do together, and basically anything that encourages licking or chewing such as frozen Kongs and size appropriate raw bones which are my personal favourites.


 By Kirsten Dillon



[ii] Research conducted by Perspectus Global on behalf of Natural Instinct of 2,020 UK dog owners aged 18+ from 5-8 June 2020, weighted to be nationally representative.