Spending more time with our dogs has been a bright spot of 2020. I like to think that our dogs feel the same, with more walks, impromptu belly rubs, and maybe a few extra treats, which is a more than equitable trade for the sorely needed therapy they provide us.
This year of the pandemic, dog ownership soared and some families added new members to their pack. Animal shelters were at their lowest levels ever this year and there was a noticeable uptick of new puppy pictures on social media. Our dogs have always stood beside us during times of emotional stress, but this year was an exceptional test. Despite whatever unsettling news of the day, our dogs played on with their smiles and wagging tails, giving us all a much needed distraction.
No doubt, 2021 will most likely bring its own set of challenges as our places of work phase people back into the office. While I am a mega supporter of dogs in the workplace, not everyone will be so lucky. So it appears change will be on the horizon yet again and that means we may be spending less time with our dogs down the road.
Understandably, this prospect is already making some folks nervous as to how they will break the news to their pooch. When we begin to do more away from home, our dogs will feel the separation and are quite capable of tuning into our apprehensions about the subject.
Behaviors, such as separation anxiety, occur when we make sudden disruptions to our routine, neglecting to give adequate time to prepare our dogs and ourselves for the adjustment. It is not that our dogs can’t handle being alone for a period of time, but instead how we go about introducing the change. A sudden change in our life pattern creates a build up of stress in our dogs, especially when there is no clear indication of how the stress will end or be relieved. By properly practicing specific routines we can calmly adjust our dogs into a new life pattern that feels natural to the dog and ourselves.
When working with behavior, such as separation anxiety, I begin by helping my clients develop greater rapport with their dogs, identify behavioral triggers, and then help create new routines to resolve the issue. I follow up with session notes to document our discussions and a follow up call to learn more about results.
As we put our plans into action calmly and consistently over a period of time, we set our dogs up for success and in turn make everyone’s transition to a “new schedule” less stressful. Taking the time now to learn, rehearse, and trust a new routine together with our dogs can be a pleasurable and relationship building experience!