Home Alone: How To Help Your Dog With Post-Quarantine Anxiety

For our furry friends, quarantine during the pandemic was a dream—an all-day cuddle fest punctuated by frequent walks to the favorite neighborhood tree. But now that we’re starting to dig through our closets for pants with actual buttons to wear back to the office, our pets may be struggling to cope with their new normal: life without us.

Separation anxiety for dogs can happen when a streak of constant companionship ends, and it can manifest in various ways like barking, chewing furniture, or having accidents indoors. And because there’s no more perfect setup for this than the lifting of quarantine, Dr. Jamie Gaynor, a veterinarian based in Colorado, coined the diagnosis as “post-quarantine anxiety syndrome.” (This might be especially pronounced in “pandemic puppies” adopted during the quarantine, because they’ve never known a day without their owners.)

Gaynor’s experience with the phenomenon isn’t just limited to the patients in his practice. When his office reopened, one of his own dogs started exhibiting symptoms by barking incessantly. “She’d spent 24 hours a day with somebody every single day, so when I started going back to work, we were very concerned about that,” he said. “She just couldn’t settle down.”

Gaynor, a longtime believer of adding CBD to a dog’s regimen to help cope with pain and anxiety, started giving his pet a combination of CBD and CBG (another chemical compound found hemp). He noticed the routine made a dramatic difference in her sense of calm and wellbeing. “It helps her a tremendous amount,” he said. 

He believes CBD interacts with a dog’s endocannabinoid system in ways that help get their body’s natural processes back in balance. “Every animal except for insects has an endocannabinoid system,” he said. “The system is all about balance. When patients are sick and anxious, there’s an imbalance of something, so that’s why CBD can potentially help.” (We recommend Miraflora’s EvenPets Dog Chews, which contain 10 mg each of full-spectrum organic CBD.)

Though he didn’t need to implement behavioral modification training with his dog, he noted that it can be optimal to treat dogs in a multifaceted manner. Here are some other things you can do to help your four-legged friend adjust to your return to work.

  • Hire a trainer to help through positive reinforcement and behavioral modification. 
  • Leave the house for small increments at first, and gradually increase the duration. This will help your pet get accustomed to you being away and give him or her an understanding that you will always come back.
  • If you’ve altered your pet’s walking and eating schedules during quarantine, reinstate the old status quo. This will get them back in the habit of having structure in their day.
  • If your pet spent time in a crate or behind a gate during your working hours, start putting them in that space for brief amounts of time and gradually increase.
  • Take them on long walks before or after work to get them much-needed exercise. It will tire them out and make them more relaxed at home.
  • Create a new “pet nook” for them—a space all their own—and give them a new chew toy to play with there while you’re gone. Dogs like being in dens, and the new confined space will give them comfort and security.

And though we can’t control if or when we’ll have another quarantine, at least now you have some tools in your toolbox to set your pooch—and yourself—up for success.

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