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Back to work after 2 years at home? Your dog’s mental health could suffer, says Winnipeg trainer

Click to play video: 'Back to work after 2 years at home? Your dog’s mental health could suffer, says Winnipeg trainer' Back to work after 2 years at home? Your dog’s mental health could suffer, says Winnipeg trainer
As COVID-19 restrictions ease and many Manitobans return to the office after two years of working from home, a segment of the population might be quietly suffering from the lifestyle change — our pets. Marek Tkach reports. – Mar 22, 2022

As COVID-19 restrictions ease and many Manitobans return to the office after two years of working from home, a segment of the population might be quietly suffering from the lifestyle change — our pets.

According to dog trainer Amanda Quinn, any change in routine can really throw them off, especially when they’re used to having their owners around full-time.

“All of a sudden, it’s a big change just to up and leave your dog for eight hours a day,” Quinn, who works with Dumbledogs canine performance centre, told 680 CJOB’s The Start.

“They don’t understand if they haven’t built up to it.”

Read more: Winnipeg Animal Services overflowing with dogs looking for new homes

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Quinn said one way owners can help their pets acclimatize to the change in routine is to leave their dog in a kennel or a puppy-proof room for a few hours at a time, eventually building up to a full day.

Many dogs, she said, are so used to being able to hang out with their working-from-home humans day in and day out that a sudden shift isn’t good for their mental health.

“(People) kept the dog by their feet all day, and now they’re up and gone, and the dog is (thinking), ‘Where’s my mom? Where’s my dad?’

“It causes them extreme stress, and I think that’s where a lot of people are today.”

Quinn said those who aren’t comfortable leaving their pets home alone or in a kennel can always have a dog service check on them, or sign them up for doggy daycare.

“Personally, I kennel my dog when they’re young, and there’s kennel games to make it a good time and a happy place.

“Not everyone thinks that’s a safe place — but what if that (destroyed) garbage bag was your couch? What if that garbage bag was an electric cord? You want your dog safe.”

Read more: Coronavirus — Dogs could benefit from Manitoba’s new public health orders

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According to the Winnipeg Humane Society, separation anxiety in pets can manifest with behaviours like urinating or defecating — even in house-trained dogs — as well as howling or barking in an attempt to get the owner to come back, and even digging or scratching at doors while trying to escape and find the owner.

The WHS says punishment isn’t a way to deal with separation anxiety, even if your dog has been destructive, and obedience training may not be the solution either — as an anxious dog isn’t disobedient, it’s having a panic response.

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