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Stay At Home

You can prevent separation anxiety in your dogs

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This past spring, as we all hunkered down in our homes, many of us rightly felt it was a great time to bring a new, forever friend into their lives. The Humane Society of Southern Arizona saw an increase in adoptions of dogs, cats and pocket pets.

Our new pets loved our companionship, and we loved the relief from social isolation and the time to bond with our new animal friends while we worked from home.

Now that the stay-home requirements have been lifted and many are returning to the office, some people are thinking about surrendering their dogs, often due to the effects of "separation anxiety." HSSA was prepared for this possibility and is ready to help dedicated owners and deserving pets keep their families together through education and guidance to turn this stressful situation back into a loving companionship.

Many owners may have inadvertently accustomed their pets to a routine that disappeared overnight. Pets had been comforted and delighted to see their favorite people working in their home offices or snuggled up on the couch with their laptops at all hours of the day. There was more time for playing and head scratches. The sudden transition to spending hours each day alone has left many pets distraught.

The HSSA Behavior Team has put together a list of helpful tips for dogs that can help ease this transition and correct the unwanted behaviors.

First off, make sure your pet's basic needs are being met each day before you leave them for hours on end. These include mealtimes, snuggling and playtime as well as exercise, leashed walks, training and enrichment. This can be a brisk walk around the park and a 15-minute snuggle on the couch each morning before starting your off to work. Any amount of dedicated engagement to your pet before asking them to take an emotional hit will be helpful in growing their self-esteem and reducing their anxieties.

Dogs love routine and are creatures of habit. Make their daily routine predictable. If your pet knows that each morning they will spend uninterrupted time with you before taking a long, lazy snooze by themselves they will become happy with their independence.

To increase your pets' sense of security while you're away from home we recommend crate training. Crate training is a beautiful thing, but often gets a bad rap. Once your pet is comfortably enjoying the crate they will happily relax there while waiting for their favorite people to return. For details on how to crate train please visit our website at hssaz.org/behavior.

Step up the training and canine enrichment to see a decrease in anxiety and destructive behavior. Dogs love to learn and they love to please you. Teaching your dog new tricks and skills is a great way to expend that mental energy they have stored up while strengthening their bond with you. Invest in some durable dog puzzle toys that encourage independent play time as well. If you have questions on which toys our Behavior Team likes best, email us at adoptions@hssaz.org

Gradually prepare for the upcoming transition. Spend time away from your pet each day—even just a short errand. Putting your one-on-one time and exit routine in place now will help them gain independence in the upcoming weeks. Start with short intervals of only a few minutes and increase until you are confident they can handle the time you'll need to spend apart in the future.

HSSA's goal is to support pets and people who love them for a lifetime. Our Behavior Team of Danielle Hagedorn and Stephen Szostek goes above and beyond to spend individual time with each dog who comes to our shelter and the results are astonishing. The more training and individual attention we offer, the better chance they find a forever family.

This is just part of our larger goal to end pet homelessness. If you would like to support the Humane Society of Southern Arizona in our efforts to find loving homes for our pets and keep them there, please visit us online at hssaz.org.

Steve Farley is the Humane Society of Southern Arizona CEO

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