While the past year has been a nightmare for most people, it has been delightful for dogs. Millions of dogs nationwide adored having constant company when more than 70% of America’s workforce was required to work from home due to the pandemic.
Now that many folks are fully vaccinated and starting to return to the office, some pups may suffer from transitional whiplash. Indeed, dogs that have grown accustom to their humans being at home 24/7 could experience separation anxiety, resulting in household destruction, self-injury, and other unwanted behaviors.
While you can’t ensure a completely seamless transition for your dog, there are some steps you can take to alleviate your pet’s stress, including turning on music or videos. Both have been proven to reduce dog anxiety, resulting in lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Here’s how your dog can benefit from music therapy while you’re at work.
What Is Dog Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is when your dog suffers from extreme stress when you’re away. According to Dr. Jamie Richardson, Chief of Staff at Small Door Veterinary, symptoms of dog separation anxiety can include aggression, excessive barking, pacing and restlessness, repetitive or compulsive behaviors, and a change in appetite or weight.
“Dogs usually exhibit symptoms of separation anxiety within the first 15 to 30 minutes after an owner’s departure. Videoing a dog during this timeframe can help your veterinarian in the diagnosis,” said Dr. Richardson. If you are considered, you can monitor your dog, with devices like the Furbo camera (which also tosses your pup a treat) or Petcube, which has two-way audio.
Using Video and Music Therapy for Dogs With Separation Anxiety
Music therapy certainly works for humans. It can reduce blood pressure, lower heart rate levels, and relieve pain. But can music help your dog? Absolutely!
Dogs react positively to soothing sounds. Depending upon the tempo, instrumentation, and genre, music can relax your pet and ease his anxiety. In fact, according to a 2020 study by animal behaviorist Dr. Deborah Wells, classical music helped to calm shelter dogs, encouraging them to rest more and bark less.
Other music genres that relax dogs include soft rock and reggae. Though, not all music works. Exposure to fast-tempo tunes, like heavy metal music, led to excessive barking. This is because the choppy, short tones of heavy metal are more excitatory than the long, continuous classical ones.
The bottom line? Play Bob Marley or Mozart for your dog, and skip bands like Motorhead and Iron Maiden.
As for videos, calming visual stimuli can help put dogs at ease. There are several types of videos out there to help relax your dog. Some companies create color-graded videos specifically for our dog’s eyesight, as they see color differently than we do. Others are more focused on nature videos, including watching horses graze, bird watching, or a virtual dog walk. All videos tend to move at a slower pace, don’t have a lot of action (dogs aren’t into plots), and are accompanied by relaxing music.
Music and Video Playlists for Your Dog
Wondering where to start when you’re curating a soothing playlist for your pooch? Canines Lullabies or Through a Dog’s Ear are both excellent recordings for anxious dogs, puppies, and canines that spook at loud noises. Another wonderful option is Spotify’s Pet Playlists.
You can also sign up for a RelaxMyDog subscription. Founded by producer Ricardo Henriquez and entrepreneur Amman Ahmed in 2011, the service has been used by millions of dog parents to help their pup overcome anxiety, stress, boredom, and loneliness, according to the website.
For videos, RelaxMyDog has plenty, including those that are color-graded, while YouTube has a plethora of calming nature videos.
Additional Relaxation Methods
If calming music doesn’t relax your anxious dog, there are a few other ways to reduce his stress.
“Increase exercise and playtime before you leave for work. Tire out your pet before you leave. If a pet has lots of excess energy, it’s more likely to turn into nervous energy and fuel separation anxiety,” says Dr. Richardson. “Take dogs for a long walk or run before work or have a vigorous play session with both dogs and cats to help mentally stimulate and tire them out.”
Other techniques include providing tons of mental stimulation with puppy puzzles or slow feeding bowls; using a calming supplement to help your dog relax; and getting into a routine when you return from work, where you aren’t excitedly greeting your dog (as this can give them anxiety when you leave). Also, never punish your dog.
“Never punish or scold your dog. This anxious behavior is because they are distressed, not done out of spite or disobedience. Your dog is scared or upset and their separation anxiety is how they are trying to cope with the situation,” says Dr. Richardson. “By punishing your dog, you will only make them more upset and the problem will get even worse. Finding positive ways to redirect this behavior will result in everyone being happier in the end.”
If your dog experiences a significant change in behavior, consult your vet.
While your return to work is inevitable, you can certainly manage your dog’s separation anxiety. Create a serene playlist for your pup to listen to while you’re away from home that includes classical, soft rock, or reggae music. Exercise your dog before work, give him interactive and challenging toys, and never punish him for behavior caused by anxiety.
“Returning to normal routines post-pandemic is going to have an impact on all of us, so it’s certainly normal for our pets to feel the impact as well,” says Dr. Richardson. “Pets that were adopted during the pandemic will especially have to adjust to a completely new schedule.”
With these techniques, the return-to-the-office transition is sure to be smoother for both pets and people.