Bowen, the Goldendoodle, is never home alone. When he came home as a puppy last June, his parents were working remotely because of the pandemic. If they try to leave their apartment in Boston for a few minutes, he makes his misfortune audible. “He whines and barks, and we just don’t want to upset the neighbors,” said Jon Canario. So don’t do it. Wherever you go, he goes. They don’t go where he can’t go. When Canario and his partner Scott Greenspan celebrated their birthday recently, they ordered takeout instead of dining at the restaurant. They ate in a park – with Bowen, of course.
Unfortunately, Bowen’s parents will have to go back to the office later this year in this scenario. They don’t know exactly when or how many days of the week, but they know it’s coming and they need to figure out what to do. A dog walker? Bowen still had to be comfortable being alone several hours a day. Day care for dogs? Incredibly expensive. Take turns working from home so that someone is always there with Bowen? If it is possible.
If the pandemic was the perfect time to be home with a new pup, the end of the pandemic turns out to be a rude awakening for those same pups. The people they have gotten used to – in some cases, all the time – will soon have places to be. “I’ve never spoken to a client in my life until the last few months when they literally never left the dog alone,” says Elisha Stynchula, a Los Angeles dog trainer. Not getting any groceries, not getting any mail, not even taking out the rubbish. Now these very affectionate pandemic pups have to grapple with being alone – and not just alone in the other room or alone for five minutes alone. Some of them have a hard time.
“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in requests for help,” says Malena DeMartini, a dog trainer who specializes in separation anxiety. “They say, ‘I couldn’t really go to my job because of the pandemic. But that can’t last forever. “DeMartini says the dogs she hears about can be split into two camps. The first are the pandemic pups who cry when their humans leave but just need time and maybe a bit of training to adjust to a new routine. The second group has real separation anxiety – to the point where the dogs tear the blinds, bite the door panels, or bark incessantly. Not only are you upset about being alone. “You’re scared,” said DeMartini. “These phobias sound really irrational to us, but the dog itself perceives them in a very real way.”
Most dogs will luckily fall into the first camp, but they and their owners have yet to stumble through a transition period. Walking straight from home to the office for up to eight hours all day will be difficult – both for dogs and their humans.
But many dog owners struggle to make plans because their employers still haven’t told them when or how often to get back to the office. “We don’t know exactly what this world will be like for us and our dogs in six months,” says Jane Yates, whose rescue dog Jasper has serious separation anxiety. Yates and her husband, who live in Oregon, adopted Jasper in October and quickly discovered that he wasn’t like other dogs they’d had. “I finally realized I had to bring the pros in when I was out for a walk,” she told me. “I could hear him howling and barking from about a block away.” You worked with a trainer on DeMartini’s team to slowly – very, very slowly – familiarize Jasper with two hours alone. At first, Yates just picked up her coat and keys and put them down, then walked for seconds and then minutes at a time. She doesn’t think Jasper will ever be satisfied with a full day’s work alone.
Gillian Cooper, who received her Yorkipoo Teddy last June, told me that she’s gotten in touch with several strollers and day-care workers – to make sure she has multiple options once she’s out of the office full time for her legal job again. “I worry because there are so many people with dogs. I’m worried that these places will be booked up, ”she said. She did separation training with Teddy in his box at home. When she leaves, she also turns on (1) a cheap security camera, (2) a white noise machine to mask outside noise that might scare him, and (3) the radio or TV, especially The Office, a show This shows she often has in the background when she is at home. “I feel like he’s familiar now. I have no idea, ”said Cooper, laughing a little at the idea. Whatever it takes, right?
Teddy whines a little as she leaves, but he finally settles down. Since the security camera has sound detection, Cooper receives a notification on her phone when he cries. When that ping came, she said, “It’s hard not to want to go home.”
This topic kept coming up in my conversations: It’s not just dogs that have got used to being with their humans all the time; Humans have got used to being with their dogs all the time. Carlos Dinkel, who works two feet from his Dalmatian Apollo for most days, told me that he recently spent a weekend away, leaving Apollo with a trusted friend. “I’m always used to looking back because he follows me through the apartment,” said Dinkel. “And I caught myself doing it.” When Julie VanSciver had to return to the office two days a week and leave her pup Penelope, she became more worried about herself. Penelope had helped VanSciver tremendously with her anxiety during the pandemic and it was really hard to see her dog sad as she walked in the morning. Usually VanSciver would say to me, “It’s pretty much glued to my side. All day. “Penelope, it should be said, is fine.
The past year has changed the social life of dogs and people alike. Trainers told me about situations that would not have been possible without the pandemic: dogs that have never had guests in their house, dogs that a stranger had never walked within two meters of them, and dogs that meanwhile did not go outside shutdowns and learned to pee in the shower. These dogs have to adapt to life after the pandemic. But so do people.