More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Your Dog is Going to Miss You, and That’s a Problem by Bruce Roney, Ottawa Humane Society
May 29, 2020


There is a joke circulating on the internet that with so many people at home during the crisis, the dogs think we have quit our jobs to spend more time with them. The cats think we were fired like the losers they always thought we were. It may not be entirely fair to cats, but it’s pretty funny anyway. My cat Gracie, the cat who must be obeyed, would like nothing more than for me to stay home to pet her all day — at least for the brief periods when she isn’t sleeping.

At the Ottawa Humane Society, it’s our job to try to figure out what the animals and our community need, especially during a crisis. At the end of this, when everyone goes back to work or school, most of the cats will probably be okay, but we are concerned that not all the dogs will. Some will likely suffer separation anxiety.

Our behaviour staff have put together a list of separation-related problem behaviours and actions you can take right now to minimize their suffering when you leave.

Separation-related behaviours you may see include:

  • Anxiety after having gone so long with minimal alone time
  • Phobias after having minimal exposure to strangers, other dogs and busy environments
  • Elimination issues as they may be used to going more frequently while people are home
  • Frustration and boredom due to the new expectation of exercise we have created by the increased outdoor time and exercise dogs are receiving while owners are home now
Here are the team’s recommendations as to what you can do now to ease their suffering later:

  • Create a safe haven for your dog where they can have quiet alone time away from disturbances
  • Establish a routine similar to what you’ll be doing post pandemic
  • Maintain an exercise schedule that will be sustainable post pandemic
  • Increase independent enrichment opportunities
  • If your dog is used to being home alone, continue to leave the house each day for maintenance
  • Start alone-time training for dogs that already show signs of stress when being left alone
Separation anxiety is no joke. A few small actions now can help your dog cope better with the day you have to leave.
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