LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As Kentuckiana pet owners prepare to head back to work, dogs who may be used to having them home may experience some separation anxiety.

The Kentucky Humane Society is urging owners to start preparing their dogs for changes to their schedules now to help prevent separation issues. 

Some dogs may react to the changes by "showing signs of loneliness and even separation anxiety when their owners leave the house," KHS said in a news release Monday.

Behavior trainer Kait Seyel said separation anxiety issues "result in dogs becoming overly stressed and often destructive in the home when their families leave."

Some signs of separation anxiety may include going to the bathroom in the house, barking, howling, chewing, harming themselves or trying to escape when they are left alone, according to Seyel.

To help dogs with the transition to "post-quarantine" life, Seyel and the KHS are sharing the following tips to help dog owners as they prepare to head back to work.

  • Teach your dog to enjoy spending time alone on their own, even when you’re in the house. This includes giving your dog a comfy place to relax that is their space, such as a crate or special room.
  • Before you leave, make sure your dog has had plenty of mental and physical exercise. This might include a long “sniff” walk, playing fetch in the yard, or training games.
  • Puzzle toys and long-lasting treats can help keep your pet occupied when you are gone. Just make sure they are sturdy and won’t become choking hazards.
  • Rehearse leaving the house; wake up at your usual “go to work” time and complete your basic routine, including providing enrichment for your dog. Then place your dog in her crate or room and quietly leave.
  • A white noise machine or soft music may help mask sounds and reduce your dog’s stress.
  • Start off being gone for just a few minutes – you could go back to bed, go to another room, or take a short drive around the block.
  • Return calmly and let your dog out when she is relaxed.
  • Build up the time you are away slowly, and if your dog becomes anxious again, practice the steps above and reduce your dog’s time alone.
  • Once your dog learns to remain relaxed when you leave, continue to practice management to help her stay safe and secure.
  • After you have returned to work, you might want to alter your family’s schedule or have someone stop by to check on your dog to help her ease back into a normal schedule, following the tips outlined above.

KHS officials say pet owners who may still have issues can consult a trainer for a training plan designed for their dog. KHS also offers virtual training consultations for pet owners. For information, contact the KHS Community Behavior Department by emailing them at behavior@kyhumane.org or by phone at 502-253-2883.

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