Whenever you hug someone you really love, your brain is flooded with a powerful feel-good hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is called the “love hormone” because it is the reason we feel a close connection whenever we look into the eyes of our pets. We humans get a strong dose of oxytocin when gazing into our dogs’ eyes – and, as it turns out, our dogs also feel the effects of the love hormone whenever they make eye contact with us.
Naturally, it can be tempting to tell ourselves that behaviors like separation anxiety are actually a sign of love. On the contrary, neuroscientists believe a dog’s separation anxiety is just another bad behavior, which is driven by a lack of trust but can be curbed with proper training.
To eliminate separation anxiety, you can start by helping your dog adjust to your long work days. This involves slowly, consistently teaching your dog to believe you’ll return home to him at the end of the day.
Start by preparing your home for your pet. Make sure your pet has a safe space with plenty of food, water and toys to keep him or her busy while you’re away. Extra toys will entertain your dog, whether he is truly suffering from separation anxiety or is simply bored. It’s important to understand that this is an adjustment period and that your dog may be nervous or fearful at first, especially if this is a recently-adopted dog who is adjusting to new surroundings. Check out these tips to help prepare your home for your new puppy.
If you have a flexible work schedule and live close to the office, it might be helpful to run home and check on your dog throughout the day. If you’re unable to take these types of pet care breaks during your workday, you might want to consider hiring a professional to help you.
Even if you don’t work long hours, a professional dog walking service can be helpful with separation anxiety, and with providing your dog a well-deserved break. Exercise, fresh air, and the ability to relieve themselves, are important aspects of a healthy life. Dog walkers help ensure your dog is being looked after properly, and reduce your dog’s feelings of anxiety, abandonment and loneliness.
Since you are working a good portion of the week, it is important to utilize your free time on the nights and weekends for properly bonding with your pet. Find a dog-friendly park to practice obedience training. You could also socialize your dog by taking him with you to a pet store, a Starbucks drive through (your dog will love the “puppy latte”), or a dog-friendly local restaurant. These will provide bonding opportunities and allow you to reinforce good behaviors with treats.
Although we can’t tell you how to keep yourself from having separation anxiety (that’s a completely different article for another day!) the words of advice listed above are a great first step to easing your dog’s separation anxiety. Remember, separation anxiety is a common behavioral issue that many dog owners have to deal with – but it doesn’t have to be permanent. With patience and consistency, you can end it for good.