21 April 2022

Pet dogs are being surrendered over east in record numbers–reportedly due to separation anxiety and other behavioural issues as people return to offices. Overseas in the UK, it’s a similar story, with many blaming impulse-purchased and poorly socialised ‘pandemic puppies’ for the surge.

In WA, behavioural issues have always been among the top reasons for dog surrenders. And while the RSPCA is yet to see a spike locally, we’re wary of the impact high COVID-19 case numbers, isolation and changing work arrangements could have on pets.

A recent survey by Royal Canin has found that 52 per cent of Australian dogs are now suffering from post-lockdown separation anxiety.  We’ve put together a list of ways you can help your furry friend be calmer and more comfortable.

What are the signs of separation anxiety? Close up of Staffy dog lying down with sad face.

Signs of anxiety include unexpected toileting in the house, destructiveness, excessive barking, digging or pacing and attempting to escape.

What can I do?

Try these tips: Does picking up your keys or putting on your shoes before heading out the door make your dog anxious? Try doing these activities but then sticking around for a while, ignoring your dog. This can help break the association and stop an anxious response.  You can also build up the time you’re away in small increments.

Food and toys can be great tools for teaching your dog that your leaving means good things happen. Fill Kong-type toys with food that will take your dog at least 20-30 minutes to eat while you’re away.

Other tools you might consider include pheromone sprays like Adaptil for dogs, or calming music such as Through a Dogs Ear on YouTube.  German Shepherd dog with Kong

Use your time with them well: Giving your dog lots of exercise before you go, to tire them out and help them relax. 

Find them someone to hang with: See if any friends or family can keep them company, if there is a reputable doggy day care in  your  area, or if someone you trust could walk them in the middle of the day.

If you need support: In some cases, separation anxiety can be severe. If you’re in need of some support, reach out to your vet, who may suggest a combination of training and medication to help you manage the issue. Or you can enlist the help of a qualified RSPCA Dog Trainer in a one-on-one session.

Read more about managing separation distress in dogs here.