First off, I'm just going to say it. Yes, your dog will miss you and you will miss him. And that's awesome! It means you are bonded and invested in the relationship you have with each other. But just because you miss one another does not mean that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety in your absence. Even if your dog whines a bit or barks a few times when you leave for work, that doesn't necessarily mean he's suffering from separation anxiety. He may simply be frustrated that he didn't get to go too! And just because your dog loves to follow you around all the time when you are home does not necessarily mean he's predisposed to separation anxiety. It may simply be he likes your company. So, how can you figure out the difference?
Set up a camera to observe your dog in your absence. You can go high tech with a nanny cam or home monitoring system, or you can simply set up a computer, tablet, or old phone with a camera function so that you can observe your dog. Set up the camera and leave your dog for short periods of time. I mean very short periods of time such as for a trip to your mailbox, a walk around the block, bringing in or taking out the trash cans, etc. If your dog is alert to your absence but not in distress, great. Move on to leaving your house for a longer walk. No problem? Get in your car and go for a short drive or run errands. Observe your dog while you are out so you know if he's in distress. So what does distress look like?
If your dog is profusely panting, pacing, drooling, barking, whining, scratching at the door, or being destructive, he's in distress. If you crate your dog when you are gone, then look for vocalizations, panting, drooling, digging at the crate, gnawing on the door, scratching to get out, or tearing up bedding. Again, if your dog whines a bit when you leave, but then trots off to nap on the couch or watch birds out the window, he's fine. Keep an eye on him while you are gone and see if he goes to sleep or remains awake and vigilant the whole time you are gone. Dogs spend the great majority of their day resting, so they should be doing that whether you are home or not. If your dog shows any of the signs of distress noted above, then he may have separation anxiety. If he doesn't show any of these signs, he's fine, BUT you still need to think about what you'd like your dog to be doing all day when you are gone. By pairing your departures with fun activities like interactive, food-based toys, you not only make your departures less of a big deal for your dog, but you make your dog actually look forward to you being gone as they get something special then! Plus, a dog who has spent a half hour working on a frozen Kong toy, for example, is tired and ready for a nap. Your dog should have a few things to do while you are gone, but spend the majority of that time resting and patrolling their home turf to keep it safe. It's what dogs do.
It's best to prepare your pets now for your ultimate return to your job outside your home. Get your pet onto the schedule that you will be following on your work days. Set an alarm, get dressed and get ready for work even if you aren't going off to work quite yet. When you are working from home, make those work hours count; spend your time working and not focusing on your dog. You can pay attention to them on your breaks! That way, they won't be expecting attention and interaction all day long when you aren't there to do so. When you do leave your house for brief periods of time, don't make a big deal of it; leave the house with zero fanfare and don't go over the top when you get back home. Reinforce your dog for being calm, not jumping up, spinning, barking, etc. While you are both excited to see one another, it shouldn't be a three ring circus when you get home!
Separation anxiety is a completely treatable problem, so if you need help, let me know. As always, you know where to find me.
I'm sure Westley is sad that my daughter has gone back to work this summer and isn't taking remote classes at home as she did for the last couple of months. I'm sure my daughter is sad to leave him home as well! Westley is, however, happy to chew on his interactive toys and nap all day until she returns. No separation anxiety here.