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How To Deal With Post Pandemic Separation Anxiety For You And Your Pet

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the entire world with extensive lockdowns and staggering infection rates and casualties. Due to the severity of the pandemic, many schools and workplaces closed down their physical locations and in-person activities. Instead, they utilized virtual means to communicate with their students and employees. In efforts to curb the spread of the virus, many workers and students stayed home rather than reporting in to work and other public places.

Due to this increased time spent at home, many were able to spend longer periods of time with their pets than what was standard for normal work or school days. Throughout the pandemic, pets and their human counterparts were able to spend more time and devote more attention to one another.

In addition to this increased quality time between pets and their owners, pet adoption rates spiked during the pandemic as people desired companionship. Given the restrictions on gathering with friends and family, it is unsurprising that people sought company from pets. The increased time spent at home rather than in public spaces meant that the standard routines of pets and their owners changed vastly compared to their schedules of the past.

While working from home allowed pet owners and their pets to form strong bonds, the return of pre-pandemic normalcy has brought about new challenges for pet owners and their animal companions. Many pets were accustomed to two years of frequent exposure to their human caretakers. However, the return to physical work and school spaces has left many pets and their owners missing the routine they developed during the pandemic. Unfortunately, an assortment of pets and their owners now face post pandemic separation anxiety challenges with the return to normal work.

Pet Separation Anxiety

Pet separation anxiety is most commonly described as the emotional distress of pets when they experience separation from their owners. Separation anxiety usually results from an extreme dependency and connection with one or more human family members. This level of intense dependency results in anxiety and discomfort when pets are left at home while their owners carry out other tasks. 

Pet separation anxiety can look different for a variety of pets, however, there are some common symptoms of separation anxiety in pets that can alert pet owners to whether their animal companion is experiencing separation anxiety. The most common indicators of pet separation anxiety are extensive vocalization, destructive behaviors, and soiling the house.

These symptoms can be variable, and some pets may exhibit only one of these behaviors while others may exhibit all three. 

In severe cases of pet separation anxiety, pets can become conscious and watchful of the warning signs that their owners may be leaving the house. Simple actions such as putting on shoes or grabbing car keys can sometimes trigger pets with separation anxiety into destructive episodes where they cry loudly or pee on carpet or other furniture. These situations can be distressing for both the pets and their human counterparts. 

Separation Anxiety Symptoms In Humans

Pet owners can also experience anxiety as they return to public spaces such as work and school, as they worry about leaving their animal companions home alone. The result can lead to time spend stressing over the wellbeing of their pets as well as the state of their home, especially in instances where pets may be showcasing destructive behavioral signs when their owners leave the home. 

Owners of pets may also begin to feel guilty at the prospect of leaving their pets home while they return to work or school. This is often the case as many owners understand that their pet companions were accustomed to two years of ample interaction time with their pet owners. Now, as society returns to normal and more people are working away from their homes, many pets may be left confused and distraught at the lack of interaction and quality time with their human owners. 

Pet Perception

It is difficult for animals to understand the transition and change in routine as pets gain comfort and stability from regular schedules. It is obvious that owners cannot explain verbally to their pets that the lockdowns from the pandemic are lessened, and humans can consequently go back to work and school. The resulting inability to clearly communicate with pets can lead to pet confusion and distress as their owners leave the house for longer periods of time to carry out work and academic duties. 

Owners that are aware of this drastic change in quality time spent together face additional worry and guilt and may feel as though they are neglecting their pets. It is important to note, however, that leaving your pet at home while you work or attend school does not mean that you are a neglectful owner.

The transition back to working in public spaces may be difficult for humans and their animal companions as both can experience stress and worry over the serious change. Nonetheless, a healthy balance of time spent with your pet and time spent outside of the house is very attainable for both pets and their owners. 

Separation Anxiety & Children

Separation anxiety does not just impact the pets that are left at home while their human’s work. Instead, separation anxiety has direct impacts on all members of the household both human and animal. This is extremely important to take into account when considering large households or homes with children.

Gaining sufficient knowledge on separation anxiety is one of the best methods to mitigate its impacts and a key part of this is acknowledging the implications that these extended periods of separation have on the humans within a household as well. 

Children are prone to forming strong attachments to their family pets and depending on the ages of the children within a household, many are unaccustomed to the way the world operated prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, households with small children should be especially aware of the emotional impacts that returning to work, schools, or daycares may have on those that are used to spending large amounts of time at home with their pets.

Some small children may struggle with the change in their normal routine and can feel sadness and anxiety when they are not able to spend as much time with their pets as was normal during the pandemic. 

Pet Owner/Human Strategies To Manage Post Pandemic Separation Anxiety

This article explains the best ways in which to manage post pandemic separation anxiety in people and pets as a way to assist those transitioning back to working in the office or at school. With separation anxiety there is no catch all solution to resolve these struggles, though a patient attitude and setting realistic expectations for both the pets and their owners is essential to working toward reducing post pandemic separation anxiety. Continue reading to learn more about the ways in which pet owners can minimize and manage the impacts of pet separation anxiety after the pandemic. 

MANAGE IRRATIONAL GUILT ASSOCIATED WITH LEAVING YOUR PET AT HOME

When dealing with a scared pet, it is important to manage personal guilt that might arise due to obligations outside of the home. An anxious person may begin to feel irrational guilt at the prospect of leaving their pets at home, however these feelings of worry do not minimize the emotional distress of the anxious pet. 

Rather than minimizing or helping pet anxiety, internalized owner guilt can detrimentally impact the mental state of one’s pet as these animal companions can often sense their owner’s distress. This means that feeling guilty about leaving your pet at home due to your outside obligations may in fact do more harm than good when it comes to reducing post pandemic separation anxiety in pets. 

Alternative Human Behaviors To Embody When Interacting With Your Pet

Instead, owners would do well to maintain a calm and soothing presence around their pets at all times, even before departing for work or school. An owner’s calm attitude allows pets to understand that there is no need for distress when they are left at home for longer periods of time than they were accustomed to during the pandemic. 

An anxious person that is feeling guilty for leaving their pet at home may actually increase the stress that a pet is feeling prior to their owner leaving for work or school. Reducing personal guilt about leaving a pet at home better enables a pet owner in easing anxiety in pets.  An added benefit of adopting this same attitude of minimizing personal guilt can help with easing anxiety in people as well which can be essential in promoting a healthy relationship between pets and their owners.

TAKE TIME TO PLAN AHEAD BEFORE LEAVING THE HOUSE & YOUR PET ALONE

Another important strategy in combatting separation anxiety in pets is to plan your schedule in advance when it is possible to predict times during which your pet will be left alone at home. Planning ahead for owner absences can help reduce separation anxiety in people and pets. 

Planning ahead for these absences may look different for each pet and owner team, but there are some universal strategies that can assist in helping a pet to feel comfortable when you leave.

Puzzle Games & Mind Occupying Strategies

One important strategy is to plan additional activities for your pet to do while you are away from home. When left to their own devices, an anxious pet may become destructive within your home by damaging furniture by chewing or clawing or soiling carpets during their periods of emotional distress. However, if the owner plans additional brain stimulating activities for their pets while they are away, this can help minimize destructive tendencies that stem from separation anxiety in pets. 

Puzzle games or treat puzzle activities are wonderful options that can distract a pet that is afraid to be left alone from destructive behaviors that often are the result of severe separation anxiety. For example, there are many companies that create dog treat puzzles such as Kongs or maze mats where food treats such as peanut butter or other soft food can be mixed into the toy. The pet then must work through locating and consuming the treat by solving the puzzle/ accessing the treat through more challenging means. 

These toys are great at occupying your pet’s mind while you are away. This concept means that your pet will be solely focused on obtaining the treat reward and will focus less on the fact that their owner is out of the house for longer than usual. These puzzle toys are fantastic because they are reusable, and your pet will be occupied for extensive periods of time. These toys are ideal at minimizing pet impacts and helping human anxiety for pet owners. 

Hiring A Pet Sitter Or A Midday Pet Walker

Hiring a pet sitter or midday pet walker that can spend time with pets that are left at home is another wonderful way to plan ahead and assist a pet that is anxious. Many pet owner’s workdays and school days can be long and taxing.

Because of this, it can be quite stressful and challenging to come home part way through the day to either let your pet outside or to interact and feed your animal companion that is left at home. 

Getting a pet sitter that can come and interact with your pet part way through the workday or school day is a terrific way to reduce separation anxiety in pets. A pet sitter or pet walker can help your pet work off excess energy and stress through activities such as playtime or taking your pet on additional walks. 

This additional human interaction can help reduce destructive behaviors in pets as they are able to gain valuable attention from another human while their owners are away at work or school. The peace of mind that a pet sitter or a midday pet walker can offer a pet owner is enormous and both the humans and animal counterparts can benefit from these arrangements.

Websites For Pet Sitters Or Midday Pet Walkers

Finding the best pet sitter or midday pet walker may seem overwhelming for pet owners that are searching for the first time. However, many owners can rest assured as there are various resources available that can help you find the best match for your personal situation and pet. Websites such as Rover.com can help match a pet owner to pet professionals in their area or region that can come to take care of pets for short periods of time while their owners are away at work or school. 

These websites allow owners to select specific criteria and traits that they desire in a pet sitter or pet walker. Most platforms also inform the owners of the experience level of each pet sitter in order to assist in the process of finding the perfect match for each pet and owner duo. Along with experience level these sites can help owners find pet sitters that have history with specific types of pets. There are also options to narrow down certain pet sitters with breeds they have experience with along with the energy levels of your own pets. 

Hiring a pet sitter or pet walker also helps owners gain a sense of control when managing pet separation anxiety. The ability to select an experienced individual in helping offer attention and care for your pet can alleviate stress while reducing potential guilt that you may feel from leaving your pet at home while you are at work or school. 

UTILIZE TECHNOLOGY TO MONITOR YOUR PET WHILE YOU ARE AT WORK OR SCHOOL.

Another wonderful way to manage and combat post pandemic pet separation anxiety is to install a device that enables you to monitor your pet while you are away from home and carrying out obligations in public spaces. Devices such as home cameras and video surveillance devices can give owners peace of mind when it comes to managing pet behaviors that stem from separation anxiety.

Many owners worry about the destructive behaviors their pets may exhibit when left at home to their own devices. This concept is exacerbated by the fact that many pets are unused to spending long periods of time without their owners due to the pandemic lockdowns that forced many to work and learn from their homes. 

Installing video cameras or similar devices such as the Petcube Cam can allow owners to check up on their pets remotely. Some of these devices are even configured with microphones that allow owners to speak with their pets while they are absent from their homes. These devices offer owners a sense of control and alleviate much of the stress that comes from leaving their pets at home. 

Some Limitations & Additional Benefits To Utilizing Remote Technology

However, an important note with these technological devices is that they really only offer owners a glimpse into the activities of their pets. They do not offer the ability to discourage specific behaviors or intervene if a pet is potentially damaging furniture or vocalizing in distress that their owner is gone. 

Despite some of the limitations that can come from using remote cameras to stay updated on the activities of pets that are home, these devices truly help manage the stress of the human owners. Remote technology allows pet owners to see that their pets are safe at home while they are working, and this can help reduce potential guilt that pet owners may feel as they return to public workplaces and leave their pets at home. This additional level of connection can improve the bond that humans feel with their homebound pets. 

PRACTICE SPENDING SMALL PERIODS OF TIME APART LEADING UP TO SIGNIFICANT SCHEDULE CHANGES

Another wonderful way to prepare yourself and your pet for potential separation anxiety that may occur as a result of returning to public spaces for work and school is to practice spending short amounts of time apart from one another. Slowly increasing increments of time spent apart can help both pet owners and pets prepare for spending long workdays separated. 

It is normal for pets to experience some levels of separation anxiety when their owners return to work and school after spending the majority of their time at home for the past couple of years. However, it is important to remember that a patient attitude and the implementation of proper management strategies can allow both humans and their animal counterparts to maintain healthy bonds while going about their daily lives and carrying out their specific responsibilities. 

Prior to returning to work or school, it is smart to practice spending small amounts of time apart from your pet. Some pets may experience major levels of separation anxiety and in these cases, it is smart to begin practicing by closing them into a single room or kennel while you go about your business in separate rooms of the house. This allows the owner to rapidly reward their pet for positive behavior while they are isolating from their owners and other family members. 

Dog Specific Schedule Changing Strategies

Dogs are among the most common pets across the globe due to their abilities to be trained and offer tremendous amounts of love, but unfortunately, their affectionate nature makes them more prone to developing separation anxiety. Dogs can exhibit some of telltale signs of separation anxiety such as extreme barking, peeing within the house, and chewing on furniture.

If a dog is showing severe signs of separation anxiety, the method of isolating them to a specific space in the house without physically leaving the house can help these pets manage their emotions in a manner that sets them up for success. 

Occasionally, when cases are severe, it is beneficial if a pet goes just a minute without vocalizing or carrying out destructive behaviors. In this case, having close proximity to this pet in order to reward these positive behaviors is key to reducing post pandemic separation anxiety. 

Over time as your pet becomes more accustomed to being separated from you, it is worthwhile to extend the period of time that you leave your pet alone. This practice will be imperative when preparing to return to work or school where pets can be left at home for extended periods of time. 

GET A PIECE OF PHOTO ENGRAVED JEWELRY IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN A CONNECTION WITH YOUR PET WHEN YOU'RE NOT HOME

Pet owners feel emotional distress when they are separated from their pets for longer periods of time than they are accustomed to. In many cases, pets offer their human owners emotional support and they become integral companions throughout the daily lives of their human caretakers. Because of this strong bond between pet and owner, an exceptional way to manage the sadness that comes from leaving your pet at home while you are at work or school is to purchase photo engraved items to help with separation anxiety, as these keepsakes remind owners of their pets even when they are not at home. 

Companies such as Jewelry Keepsakes offer a variety of pet photo engraved jewelry designs including necklaces, keychains, wallet clips, and rearview mirror charms that can all help an owner remember their pet while they are out of the house. The customizable options allow human owners to select the cutest, most personal pictures of their pets to engrave on quality pieces of jewelry that will last for years to come. 

Customization Options & Educational Content

These pet photo engraved keepsakes come in multiple finish colors such as gold plated, silver, and stainless steel. The ability to carry photo engraved keepsakes of your pet while you are out of the house can alleviate some of the stress that comes with separating from your pet for longer periods of time post pandemic. Lasting keepsakes like a color photo engraved pet pendant or a pet photo engraved keychain can help a person that is anxious to leave their pet at home by acting as a gentle reminder that their pets are safe and content. 

The Jewelry Keepsake website offers various educational articles that can detail the proper ways to care for your photo engraved jewelry , the best ways to pick out the perfect keepsake, and the various occasions in which a photo engraved keepsake might be appropriate. 

Separation Coping Strategies and Ideas for Pets that are Left At Home

CREATING & IMPLEMENTING A POSITIVE GOODBYE ROUTINE

One method to combat separation anxiety in pets is to institute the development of a positive goodbye routine. This means that an owner will work to introduce positive treats or rewards for their pets prior to leaving the house. 

This method is thought to alleviate some of the pet’s stress by illustrating to them that positive things come from the action of their human owner leaving the house. Most frequently, treats are used as a positive indicator for pets before their humans leave for work or school. 

By giving your pet their favorite snack before leaving the house, you are explaining to them that they are rewarded when their human caretaker leaves. If your pet is not food motivated, there are a variety of other reward-based ideas that can simulate the same effect. If a pet enjoys watching television or listening to the radio, the owner can turn these entertaining devices on prior to leaving the house for outside obligations. 


TAKE YOUR PET ON A SHORT WALK OR PLAYING WITH THEM PRIOR TO LEAVING THE HOUSE

Another wonderful strategy to reduce post pandemic separation anxiety in your pet is to exercise them before leaving the house. This exercise could take the form of a short walk around your neighborhood or playing their favorite physically taxing game. 

It is thought that if you tire your pet out through exercise before leaving them alone at home, they will not have the energy to become distressed and carry out the more destructive behaviors associated with pet separation anxiety. 

Another benefit from implementing this new practice into your daily work or school routine is that your pet will appreciate the increased quality time that they get to spend with you before leaving the house. Pet owners can rest assured that their pet is not only gaining coping strategies to manage their separation anxiety but also strengthening the bond between pet and human owner. 


CREATE A SAFE SPACE WHERE YOUR PET CAN REST WHILE YOU ARE AWAY AT WORK

Creating a safe space where your pet can rest while you are away from the home at work or school is an essential component of properly and effectively managing your pet’s post pandemic separation anxiety. These safe spaces will look different for each specific pet and their owner. 

Some owners prefer to kennel their pets, most often dogs, while they are away carrying out their additional responsibilities in public spaces. If you are an owner that kennels your pet, it is very important to ensure that your pet feels safe and genuinely enjoys going into their kennel. To work on promoting this positive relationship and attitude toward being kenneled, allowing your pet to freely spend time in the kennel is essential.

Using treat incentives can help your pet become more comfortable within their kennel. It is also smart to slowly introduce your pet to their kennel rather than locking them within it with no previous training on your first day back to work or school. Closing your pet in their kennel for short intervals of time at first followed by rewarding their positive behavior is a great way to promote a healthy relationship between pet and kennel. Once pets develop an appreciation for their kennel, it is not uncommon for some pets to rest in their kennel even when their human owners are home. 

If you are a pet owner that does not use kennels with your pets, it is still important to create safe spaces for your pets while preparing to return to work or school. Sometimes this can be the designation of a specific room where your pet will be confined while you are at work. 

Regardless of what space you designate for your pet while you are out of the house, it is always important to remove potentially hazardous objects from these spaces. Items such as power cords and toxic plants can be enticing chewing objects for many animals, and it is very important to ensure the space in which your pet will access while you are out of the house is safe for them. Pets will find stability and support in a normalized routine that designates a specific safe space for them to relax within while their owners are away from home. 


SEND YOUR PET TO PET DAY CARE

Another strategy to minimize the impacts of post pandemic separation anxiety on a pet that is anxious is to consider sending them to a pet day care. There are a plethora of dedicated day cares that specialize in caring for your pet while you are away at work or school. Some pet day cares specialize in specific types or breeds of pets, and this can often help owners narrow down the best match for their particular pet. 

These businesses are wonderful options to combat and manage your pet’s stress while you are out of the home. These pet day cares can provide your pet important attention and exercise while you are not at home. If your pet enjoys socializing with other animals, it may be beneficial for you to consider sending them to a pet day care while you are at work. 

Sending your pet to a pet day care can ensure that they do not get into trouble at home as a result of extreme post pandemic separation anxiety. Human owners can also rest assured as their pets are properly cared for by professionals that value pets and prioritize their comfort. 

Additional Considerations for Pet Day Cares

It is important to note that these pet day cares would not be a proper match for all pets. Pet day cares often specialize in cats and dogs and may not accept other types of pets. These businesses may also not be the best match for pets that have socialization struggles. Therefore, if you have a dog or cat that displays signs of aggression when interacting with other dogs or cats, it would not be recommended to send your pet to one of these day cares, as this would create a stressful experience for all parties involved.


UTILIZE CALMING MEDICATIONS

Implementing the use of calming medication can be one of the wonderful home remedies for separation anxiety in pets. Certain medications like CBD oil are proven to be safe and natural for pets to take. These medications--when administered properly--can reduce the anxiety and stress of pets when their owners leave them at home. 

Calming medications can also help when pet parents get separation anxiety as well because they can take comfort in knowing their pet’s emotions and distress are being responsibly and safely managed. Giving your pet medicine can help a pet to feel comfortable when you leave, however, it is very important to consult with your veterinarian before ever administering a medication to your pet. 

Pet Anxiety Frequently Asked Questions

Can you have separation anxiety from your pet?

Human owners can also experience separation anxiety as they are apart from their pets. Many owners have developed strong attachments to their pets throughout the pandemic and therefore separation anxiety in people is not an uncommon occurrence once pet owners return to work or school. 

What are the signs of separation anxiety for pets?

Some signs of separation anxiety for pets are behaviors such as extreme vocalization, destructive behaviors such as extensive chewing or clawing, and peeing or pooping within the house or in spaces in which they are not supposed to relieve themselves. 

What things can I do to help my pet with separation anxiety?

Some things you can do to help your pet with separation anxiety are prepare safe spaces for them within your home, work on increasing their exercise levels and provide calming medication for your pet while away at work or home. 

How long does separation anxiety last in an animal?

Separation anxiety can last varying amounts of time for each animal. Animals are unique from one another, and this means that there is no set amount of time for separation anxiety experienced by pets. Separation anxiety could last for a few days, or it could last for years if no attempts are made to mitigate its effects.

How can I teach my dog to accept my departure when I leave the house?

You can teach your dog to accept your departure when you leave the house by practicing leaving the house for short increments at a time. The practice of leaving your dog for brief spans of time before returning and rewarding their behavior will better prepare them for when you return to work or school full-time. 

Creating A Calm Move Forward Post Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic had lasting impacts on many people and their pets, and after spending copious amounts of time with each other at home, many pets and their owners are facing post pandemic separation anxiety as society attempts to return to normal. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to combat separation anxiety such as creating safe spaces for your pet or monitoring their behavior with in-home cameras.

Above all, it is important for owners to remain calm and patient with their pets while working through the difficulties that accompany a changing routine. Before instituting any large changes, remember to consult your personal veterinarian regarding the best calming tactics and solutions for separation anxiety.  Separation anxiety in pets may seem overwhelming at first, but it is a problem that can be resolved with time and patience.

November 11, 2022 by Jeri K. Augustus