TUCSON, Ariz. — It’s an old pandemic joke by now — COVID-19 is really a conspiracy by pets to keep their owners home with them.
But now that people are looking ahead to going back to the office, how should pet owners keep their furry friends from freaking out when they're gone?
Volunteer trainers at Top Dogs in Tucson, Arizona help Pima Animal Care Center reduce emotional problems in dogs.
Lynne Stott of Top Dogs says even a dog that did not have separation anxiety before may have it now after a year with near-constant companionship with owners.
“If they follow you to the door scratch and whine if they bark when you leave. If your neighbors call and say, 'Hey, do something about your barking dogs.' Those are all really good signs that you have a problem to address," Stott said.
She said that well before owners return to a normal work routine, it’s good to start desensitizing pets.
“And that's simply repetitive movement so that if you can get three feet from the door before your dog gets upset," she said. "You do that 25 times, and the dog eventually will say, ‘Hey, I've been there, done that, nothing to worry about.’”
Stott says it pays for owners to get their dogs to view a kennel not as a cage, but as a secure, comforting den. That can take lots of treats at first, so the dog decides good things happen inside that kennel.
“It might be two weeks to a two-month process so you want to get started now," Stott said. "See how your dog responds. The smarter the dog, the faster they'll learn to miss you when you're gone, the faster they'll learn to be okay with you leaving, once you desensitize them.”
This story was first published by Craig Smith at KGUN.