How to Avoid Codependency for a Happy, Healthy Relationship with Your Pup

Dog Sitting on Couch Looking at the Camera

It’s been almost one year since most people and their pets experienced a lockdown, and for many of them, things have not been quite the same since. During the pandemic, more people started working from home and subsequently adopted their first dog or brought another dog into the household. Many of us have relied heavily on our pups to help relieve stress, get us outdoors, and act as companionship during a year of social distancing. Recently, the Better Cities for Pets Program Report: Pets in the Pandemic was released and showed that many owners feel their pet has helped them cope with stress and anxiety, break up the monotony of their day, provide companionship, and reduce depression.

While all of this closeness with our pets has enhanced some human-dog bonds, it has also had adverse effects of codependency, making it difficult for either to leave the other alone. The report also showed that 75% of pet owners feel anxiety about having to leave their pet to return to “normal” or go back to the office, travel, etc. and 78% of pet owners are worried about their pet’s anxiety or confusion over their owner returning to work or leaving them alone.

Dogs have grown used to their humans being home nearly all the time, which makes it difficult on them when their human does leave to run an errand, go grocery shopping, or do some other task outside the home. Some dogs may show signs separation stress with vocalization or pacing, and some may show their stress through other behaviors such as shredding something they wouldn’t normally bother, having accidents in the home, or self-injury. Other dogs may be so used to the home routine that they have become needier, meaning they demand more attention throughout the day and can use poor behavior as a way to get the attention they crave.

The increased time together can also produce behavior changes such as difficulty doing things independently, trouble coping when left alone, and increased wariness of new people, dogs, or environments. Without meaning to, we’ve trained our dogs to stay away from other people and dogs and made visiting different places an experience filled with stress and anxiety or to avoid completely.

These changes, combined with our own stress, can result in a dog that feeds off of and reacts to former, normal situations by showing anxiety or aggression towards that situation. This includes protectiveness, aggression or fear towards people or other dogs, general anxiety at home, or separation or isolation issues.

This codependency can cause stress for both the human and dog when forced apart, so it’s important to identify any concerns early on and practice time apart to help both you and your dog become more comfortable during separation.

Here are a few little things you can incorporate into your routine to help your dog adjust to a new routine and being left at home:

Practice leaving the house without your dog (for your sake and his)

  • Making leaving and returning not a big deal
    • In other words, don’t get your dog overly excited when you come home with lots of verbalization and jumping around, and don’t leave the house with a lengthy routine (dogs pick up on routines easily) and verbalization of promises to return (many pet owners like to try to reassure their dogs when leaving with their words and pets).

Change up your daily routine for walks, play, and other interactions so that your dog doesn’t become an alarm clock and demand his or her walk when he or she knows it’s coming.

  • Change up your walking routes, toys you play with, and games.
  • Mix in training sessions to help wear your dog out mentally.

Utilize a safe, well-run dog day care like Camp Bow Wow® where your pup can get out of the house, socialize with others, and get energy out during the day.

Tune in next month for more information on helping your dogs prepare for another change in their routine as restrictions may lessen and local and regional travel resumes.