Post-lockdown Separation: How to prepare your dog for being left alone.

Lockdown measures have been in place in the UK for 12 months, on and off, and not only has this meant a change of routine for us, but it has also been the same for our furry friends. Our older dogs have gotten used to having us home for much of their day, and if you purchased a pup in lockdown then they know nothing else than a lockdown life! So, in preparation for the restrictions easing, the VisioCare team has put together some top tips for preparing your dog for separation.

  1. PrepareWe wouldn’t expect our new pup to ‘sit’ when told without a bit of training, so why should staying at home for hours be the same? Before life gets busier, give your dog some quiet time each day. Pop them in another room with the door closed for a couple of hours each day so that they learn to be separate from you, while you are still around. Build this separation up over time and they will get used to entertaining themselves – or just sleeping!
  2. RewardMany dog owners are used to only rewarding active behaviour but while training your pooch for separation, rewarding for calm behaviour is just as important. Whilst you are home, drop a healthy treat, such as these, beside your dog each time they show calm behaviours and leave them to enjoy. This will condition them to associate positivity with being calm. Once things return to normal, make sure to walk, feed and allow your dog to relieve themselves before you leave, so that they can fully relax while you are away.
  3. DistractIf you don’t have one already, buy your dog a Kong or a long-lasting chew. These treats will not only provide your pooch with a distraction but develops calmness and can help your dog settle once you leave. Most importantly, make this treat or toy something they only get when you are away and build the association in your dog that it is something ‘special’. Take it back when you return to maintain the entertainment value.
  4. Stay CalmDo you think your dog can sense your feelings? If you said yes, then you would be correct! Studies have found that dogs can sense human emotions and can even guess what emotion their human may show when they have done something naughty. This is important to bear in mind when leaving the house. If you come across as anxious, stressed or upset about leaving them, your pup will pick up on this and will likely feel the same. Say goodbye to your dog in advance of leaving and when the time comes, remain calm and composed – almost acting as if nothing is happening. This will teach your dog that leaving is no big deal, even though it may feel like it for us.
  5. LeaveGetting your dog used to you leaving is important! Leave your house twice a day for short bursts; this could be for a walk around the garden, a trip to the car, or just simply stand and wait outside for five minutes. The crucial part of this is to prepare your pooch as if you are going out for real. This will familiarise your dog with your pre-leaving routine, so they know what is coming when it happens when you begin to start to work away from home. With all the other tips also in practice, your dog shouldn’t feel anxious when they see you starting your leaving routine.

Don’t forget about your cats too! Find some tips about cat anxiety, here.

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If you have any concerns regarding your pet’s health, please contact your local veterinary practice and they will be able to provide professional advice.