There is a lot of talk today about puppies and adult dogs suffering from separation anxiety if and when dog owners go back to work at the office rather than working at home. A lot of people have taken the opportunity of lockdown to adopt a puppy because it allowed them the time to train their new companion. These novice dog owners now foresee a potential problem, or at least the experts do, because there will come a time when they will be separated from their puppies when they return to the worplace.
Change in working arrangements
There is a caveat about this though. I am convinced that the working arrangements of office workers all over the planet and certainly in the UK will change permanently. They will go back to the office gradually but it may take several years and not everybody will end up working the way they did before the pandemic. A significant portion of employees of companies will end up working at home and meet at an office conference room which will be in a relocated building. The office building will be much smaller and it will probably be located away from a major conurbation.
The Times today tells us that fewer than one in six workers has returned to the office in Britain. In London, one in eight worker has gone back to work in their office which has left trains and buses all but empty. They don’t want to work in offices any more because they are frightened of contracting Covid-19 and they find life pleasant working at home. There is also the issue I believe of employer’s liability. I don’t think employers can get insurance for their employees against a Covid-19 infection. If that is true they cannot ask their employees to come back into the office.
All that said, lockdown has meant that dog owners have spent all day every day (and night) with their newly adopted puppy. In some shape or form this will change. Therefore they have to gradually acclimatise their new companion animal to being away from them. They can do this in gradual steps.
Training to minimise separation anxiety
You spend several sessions of 5 to 10 minutes a day training your dog, says Jenna Kiddie of the Dogs Trust. She explained that you should prepare a comfortable bed and give them a nice toy or a chew. You take a single step back and then step forward again and reward them. You then take a step further back as you gradually remove yourself and your dog’s presence for longer periods of time.
You then might leave the room and close the door behind you. You then return to the room. You then build on that by leaving the room and closing the door and staying out of the room for a longer period. You then get them used to the doorbell and reward them when they don’t bark too excitedly. You should spend time in different rooms and shut doors behind you so that your dog cannot access areas freely, as he wants. Further, you build up the amount of time that you leave the home.
This gradual desensitisation to being away from their human companion (and pack leadder) may take days for some dogs who were unaffected by separation anxiety before lockdown But in young dogs who have got used to being with their owner for long periods of time it may take several months.
Nicola Schopp who is a manager of Happy Hounds and Cooler Cats, a pet care service in London, said that it appears to her that the majority of dog owners are starting to panic as they understand that their puppy hasn’t been socialised and they worry about how their dog will respond when they return to work and separation anxiety kicks in. She has had a 60% increase in business and 80% of the dogs at her centre of puppies.
Tom Senior, the owner of Buddies Doggy Daycare in London, confirmed that he had seen a large increase in the number of puppies coming into his facility. Jenna said that they are concerned that there will be a generation of young dogs who are going to come out of the coronavirus pandemic with separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety also affects cats and it may well affect them more than dogs because the public tends to believe that domestic cats are very independent and can be left alone. Therefore they are less concerned about the possibility of separation anxiety affecting their cat companion. Cats are sociable. Dogs are more sociable but both need companionship with their human guardian. I suspect that a lot of businesses will allow dog owners to bring their companions to the office with them when they return. This is certainly a solution to separation anxiety.