MISSOULA — Since the stay-at-home order in Montana was issued, a lot of folks have taken advantage of all the extra time they can now spend with their pets.
For our four-legged friends, having their owners home 24/7 is ideal, but according to professional dog trainer and owner of Pawsitive Change Dog Training Jean Biggins, man’s best friend could face some serious separation distress once the stay at home order is eventually lifted.
“When you go back to your normal 30 hour, 40 hour home alone week schedule, you might see some behavior changes and they might have a hard time going back to being home alone so much,” said Biggins.
She explained that it’s much easier to prevent separation distress in dogs than to resolve it down the road.
“Dogs who are really suffering from separation distress are going to be, maybe causing some damage or doing some pestering at doors and windows, trying to get out, trying to follow you. If it gets really severe they can harm themselves and it can be really detrimental to their well-being.”
Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do now to help your pet later. Biggins suggests leaving your dog behind the next time you run errands or go on a walk.
By giving your dog little periods of isolation each day, you’re allowing them to maintain their sleep schedule and reminding them that you won’t always be around once the stay-at-home order is lifted.
“Our dogs had to learn to be left alone as puppies,” said Biggins, “Learning to be alone, learning not to sleep with the people or learning that you have to go to work. That's something most of our adult dogs have learned and can do, and we want to maintain that.”
For pet owners working from home, Biggins also has some advice if your dogs are interfering with your workflow. She recommends giving them a food-stuffed toy.
Both long-lasting and calming for dogs, these are the perfect way to occupy your dog while you’re on the clock. If you don’t have a food-stuffed toy,
Biggins says smearing greek yogurt, canned food, or cheese on a plate and freezing it is another easy option.
Finally, if you're having ongoing problems with your pets after going back to a normal work routine, Biggins encourages you to reach out to a force-free positive reinforcement trainer.