For those of us in a lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we know returning to work will happen at some point in the future. Maybe you are worried about what that might mean for your Beagle? Have you recently had a Beagle join your family and they have been used to having you around? The good news is, there are things you can be doing now to get your Beagle ready for you not being about so much.
Separation anxiety is a condition in beagles and other breeds of dogs where your beagle will become very distressed when left alone. Beagles, with their sociable nature with human and dogs can be susceptible to separation anxiety, especially if they have had prolonged periods of time without experiencing being alone.
Let’s now take a deeper dive into separation anxiety and what you can start right now to either address or prevent this condition in your Beagle.
What is separation anxiety?
When a Beagle feels alone, sometimes they will become stressed. They may feel isolated, and they may then panic, worrying where their human mum or dad has gone. This is essentially separation anxiety. It can manifest itself in varying levels of severity from mild to severe.
Typical characteristics include:
- Pooping (Coprophagia) or urinating: Even if your Beagle had relieved itself on the morning walk, the stress could lead them to have an accident
- Barking or whining: This can be a quite common trait of separation anxiety, particularly as Beagles are notorious for their baying
- Chewing: This could be toys, or household furniture and Beagles may do this when they are bored as opposed to suffering separation anxiety
- Drooling: Again, due to their stress levels, they may excessively drool.
- Panting: When a dog is distressed, like humans, their heart rate will rise, and breathing will get heavy
- Pacing: They may move around the room continuously
- Try to find a way out of the area they are in: They may dig the floor, scratch at doors or chew their crate if they are being crated whilst you are out
If your Beagle is or has suffered separation anxiety in the past, they may exhibit some of the above characteristics before you leave the house. For example, putting your clothes on for work, a coat or grabbing the house keys could set them off.
Sometimes separation anxiety can appear after you have left the house and it can be difficult, without evidence when you return, to really know if they do have it. So you could set up a camera in the room you leave them in. We did this with our Beagle Bonnie when we were unsure if she was getting stressed when we left her. Unfortunately, we placed the camera where she could reach it, and the rascal managed to grab it and chew it in her bed. Cameras can come at varying costs, we purchased an indoor Ring camera that cost £50 and connects via wi-fi. This means we can watch her live whilst we are out.
If you see unusual behaviours in your Beagle, I would recommend you consult a vet or professional dog behaviourist to diagnose.
Why is separation anxiety common in Beagles?
Beagles were bred originally to be in a large hunting pack of other Beagles. These packs would sleep, eat, play and hunt together. Therefore they are generally very friendly around other dogs and humans. They will prefer to be with someone than be on their own.
If your Beagle is not used to being on their own, they may become bored to start with, and then it may manifest itself into them becoming distressed. They will feel unconfident being on their own and not knowing when you might return, they become emotionally stressed.
How long can I leave my Beagle for?
There are different views on websites or Facebook groups, regarding how long a Beagle can be left. If your Beagle is over 18 months old (an adult), it is recommended that they be left between 4 and 6 hours. For Beagle puppies the length of time is much less, a maximum of 2 hours is recommended.
If you have access to a friend or family member who can pop by and take your dog for a walk, or alternatively you use a dog walking service, this will make it less difficult for your Beagle. If you have a job that means you are out of the house all day (6 hours or more), you need to think about your Beagle’s quality of life. Dogs like company, Beagles especially.
For more information about leaving you Beagle see the following post.
What preventative measures can I put in place?
Many of us will find ourselves in the position where our Beagles previously didn’t suffer from separation anxiety. But now we have been working from home this last year, our Beagles have become used to not having to be on their own. Or you may have decided to purchase or adopt a Beagle during the pandemic and have not had to leave your Beagle yet.
Either way, there is a risk of separation anxiety rearing its head when returning to work. The good news is, there are things you can be doing right now to prepare your Beagle for a return to the office and get them comfortable being on their own.
- Adopt a strict routine for you and your Beagle
Certainly, for me, the advantage of working from home full time means no commute or early starts. It’s fair to say that my morning walks with the girls are usually anything between 8 and 9. It really depends if I have any zoom calls, but my routine is somewhat not consistent. And my girls pick up on this, they will literally herd me like a sheep until I am downstairs getting my coat on and grabbing their leads.
When I return to the office, I will have to walk the dogs much earlier than 8 am, some mornings I might not be able to do it. So already I find myself in this situation where routine has gone out of the window. Unexercised Beagles means bored and restless Beagles.
Some of my work colleagues have taken to walking their dogs at lunchtime, fabulous idea whilst w2e are all at home. It means in the winter we can walk in the daylight and we get that well-deserved rest from the laptop. But when we return back to the office, will we be able to nip home and walk our beloved Beagle during our lunch hour?
Now is an excellent time to adopt a routine which is still achievable for both you and your Beagle if you return back to your office or workplace in the future.
2. Exercise your Beagle
Building a routine with your Beagle shouldn’t just include the time they are fed and put to bed, it should also include regular exercise.
Beagles were bred to hunt, and they would be out with their pack and human companion fort pretty much for most of the day. So their levels of energy and stamina are much greater than other dog breeds. An adult Beagle should ideally have two walks a day for about 30 minutes per walk. For a younger Beagle, i.e. a puppy, this should be much less typically one mile per day over several short walks.
If you limit your walks to just the weekend with your Beagle or occasionally during the week, your dog will be restless and will get bored. Boredom can lead to destructive behaviour. If the boredom doesn’t strike then separation anxiety might appear. So when you develop and practise your post COVID-19 dog routine, build in time for them to have daily walks.
For more information about how much exercise your Beagle might need, please read the following post on our website.
3. Practise leaving them on their own
So if you have had the experience of raising a puppy, Beagle or other breed, you will remember the training we do with them to start getting them comfortable to be left independently. Now is an excellent time to revisit that training you might have done when they were a pup.
My Beagles are with me 8-12 hours per day, they have free run of the house, so if they want to sit with me in the office upstairs, they have the freedom to do that. Other than bedtime, I spend most of my time with them. They are used to having me around, and it is a worry for me when I return to the office how they will cope me not being around.
But there are things we can start to do now to build up the time they spend on their own. There is a small challenge at the moment for us in a lockdown where you can’t leave your home, but what we can do is sit in a different room to them in your house or apartment.
Here are some simple steps to follow to practise leaving them on their own:
- Ideally, after they have been fed and walked, i.e. they are not after something, leave the room you are in and close the door. Don’t do a big goodbye, by hugging them, just calmly walk out of the room.
- Depending on how anxious your Beagle might be, leave them for a minimum of 10 minutes. Go and sit in another room or go out in your back yard.
- Return back to the room you left your Beagle in, ignore them, dont speak to them or pet them. Just go about your day.
- Repeat these steps another 5 times during the day.
- The following day, start to increase the time you leave them, try 20 minutes, then 30 minutes.
- The trick is, is not to make a fuss when you leave or enter the room. You want them to realise there is no big deal you not being with them.
- Keep practising these steps, building up to the recommended time you can leave them.
4. Get some help looking after them
I’ve had Beagles for nearly 20 years, and i have noticed the number of options locally around dog sitters, dog walkers and doggy daycare services have grown massively. This is excellent news for those of us that have jobs which require us to be out of the office.
These services come at a cost but are worth the investment. It’s a piece of mind knowing whilst you are out at work that your Beagle is getting some attention, social interaction and a walk.
There are many options for getting help, however, given Beagles are not easy dogs to look after, i.e. eat anything, will runoff, have high energy, etc. you should think carefully who you enlist for help.
For example, an inexperienced dog handler such as your teenage nephew or the guy next door may struggle to look after your Beagle. I would recommend doing some local research to find a professional dog walking or daycare service. They will undoubtedly have good experience at these types of places and used to looking after Beagles specifically.
In my experience, all of my Beagles have shown signs of separation anxiety at some stage in their lives. It is common in Beagles due to their sociable nature. However, it is a condition with some patience you can tackle. Even if your Beagle hasn’t shown signs before of separation anxiety, now is an excellent time to set you and your Beagle up for success when you might return to the office.