The ending of the pandemic and easing of lockdown confronts dog guardians with an experience unique to our time: after more than a year of intensely close quarters with our animal family members, how do we transition back to work at the office when that means either leaving them at home alone, visited by a walker, or at a doggy day care?
Many behaviorists and trainers are offering their expertise on this issue. As a professional animal communicator, I would like to add my insight to the vast treasure trove of counsel available right now, because animal communication affords an ‘inside view’ that isn’t always accessible from outside an animal’s skin. As you glean from all experts, you will find the right combination of information to help you and your beloved animal.
Since the following feature is about separation anxiety, you may safely surmise that in this case (do imagine me smiling at you right now), I am writing mainly about dogs! Cat guardians are welcome to continue with curiosity, disdain, or sympathy, as the case may be.
What is Animal Communication?
Animal communication (or ‘AC’) is the receiving of information, insight, and impressions from an animal via an intuitive link.
Animal Communication helps us understand that separation anxiety can have many different causes
If you are concerned that your dog is going to experience or have an increase in separation anxiety when you go back to work, one way to begin addressing this is to consider why they are experiencing separation anxiety in the first place. Then, you can create circumstances that address their anxiety in a way that is right for them.
Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety—clients since my very first days of creating my training portfolio have brought their dogs to me because of it! Separation anxiety is so common that it seems almost built into their species, a soul affliction (I’ll reflect more on this below). However, I’ve been blown away from the beginning that separation anxiety, although with common symptoms, is not uniform in its causes.
Separation anxiety can have vastly different stories behind it: based on a dog’s early life, even a past life, on their perception of themself, on their physical body makeup, and on their experiences. I will share two client stories further on in this article so that you can see what I mean.
This is important to keep in mind, because as the stories are different, the action steps you can use to help your dog optimally become necessarily different. It’s like creating an answer to the precise question your dog is asking. One thing an animal communication consult can do is lead you to the root cause, the origin story of your dog’s separation anxiety—I hope this article helps you to reflect on how your particular dog’s experience of life may have laid the groundwork for their state of mind and behavior, so that you may help them feel better in the absolute best way you can.
Animal Communication can work in tandem with and enhance behavioral training to help animals
Animal Communication works in tandem with behavioral training because it allows you to know what the issue is to be addressed from the inside—knowing this can help you make the training more bespoke, and help you realize when the training absolutely necessarily addresses an issue your dog is having, versus when it is extraneous (meaning, it can’t hurt, and may be something that your dog is going along with to humor you—or because they find the activity interesting of itself, but not because they need it).
I should note that Animal Communication as I have been trained to do it does not view animals’ behavior issues as problems to be fixed. The behaviors the guardian is perceiving as problematic are experiences the animal is having, so the one of the first things we do as communicators is ask, ‘What are you experiencing when you choose that behavior?’ That’s a more nuanced and productive question than, ‘Why do you do that?—I reckon most humans would often have a problem answering a question of why we do something, when we begin to act out weirdly.
By asking a meaningful question, we begin to get the dog’s story. Then you as their guardian are empowered to choose the means and techniques that will best help your dog: by taking the edge off of their symptoms, and by creating an environment and patterns around them that foster their feeling secure and good.
But before we dig into their life story, let’s start with ourselves.
Your dog’s anxiety may be triggered by your conflicted thoughts about returning to work after a lockdown
Let’s start with you. It’s so obvious it’s like the water we swim or air we breathe that we can’t see—but since dogs place us at the center of their universe, if we are going to diagnose the universe, doesn’t it make sense to see if the center is slightly off-kilter first? Otherwise we will have to keep re-setting it to true.
At the close of the pandemic and the re-opening of the world, many humans are experiencing FOMO or FORJO or whatever the latest acronym is: Fear Of Missing Out, Fear Of Rejoining, Fear Of Reigniting All the Interactions which had given us stress in the pre-COVID world, and fearing the circumstances that trip our stress wires will be the same when we return.
If we are coursing with stress and streaming with worry, it makes sense that our dogs are going to respond to that.
How does a dog’s empathy work?
Dogs are acutely—even painfully—empathic and attuned to their human family. That attribute is part of their evolutionary heritage and also part of their soul purpose—and it is absolutely possible for these two disparate causes to be present and functioning at once ! Human people can tend to remember dogs’ empathy in one moment (like when we our dogs are lying on our belly after we’ve had our heart broken) and forget it in the next (like when they are whining and trembling because we are tense about an interview coming up). So I’m here to remind you!
How much of what our dogs are experiencing is our own stress as their guardians? It certainly can’t hurt to get clear on our own emotions first before heading into a deeper communication with them. I cannot repeat often enough, as an animal communicator: Animals know everything we are thinking. The problem is, humans aren’t always very organized about what we think.
Consider how often your thoughts run up over one another like clashing waves. I cannot imagine any human on Earth who is not inwardly having complex responses to the end of pandemic life. We are all very much works in progress. But when we get clear for ourselves what we are feeling, then we will be a much better anchor for our dogs. Because they can hear us. They know what we are feeling through a combination of telepathy, of the scents of our body such as the rise and cascade of our stress hormones (remember how super-powered dogs are at smelling!), their total awareness of any muscular contraction or shift in our body language (such as the very moment you start to think about getting a piece of cheese from the fridge), and of course through the field of the miraculous where we are all tuned in with each other.
Separation anxiety is the ‘shadow side’ of dogs’ unconditional love
Separation anxiety is the shadow side of a dog’s intense unconditional love. The very attribute humans love about their dogs, love about dogs: dogs’ loyalty, their acceptance of us, their seemingly infinite forgiveness of our foibles (to the point where they don’t even seem to perceive our foibles in order to have to forgive them)—separation anxiety is the flip side of that. Why wouldn’t it be? So for those of them who experience it, we can begin to be forgiving of it.
For dogs who are protectors, for dogs who are consolers (These can overlap, of course)
How much is your dog’s desire to keep you safe put in conflict with your feeling anxious about going back out into the world? Because they can’t keep you safe when you are separate from them. To a dog who prides himself on devotion, who considers himself your protector, that can be very hard to deal with.
We have become much more equalized during the pandemic and this includes our animals: how many of us have let our dogs know how badly we need them during this time? How they have aided our mental health like never before? Does the fact that you are going back to the office mean that you don’t need them now? What are they going to be able to do for you now?
What a protector dog can experience: a useful story
I once served a client whose dog perceived himself as a World War One officer. Whether that was a past life, or a metaphor he was using so that we would understand where he was coming from, wasn’t really important—both are possible. The most important thing was that we got how seriously the dog took his sense of honor and duty. When my client left to travel for work, not only could her dog not do his job as he perceived it, he actually felt bad about himself for his inability to fulfill his post. So this manifested in separation-anxiety type behavior which was actually self-loathing.
So you see, in this case the anxiety is very different from simply being parted or alone. It had a whole different dimension.
What a ‘pandemic pup’ can experience: a useful story
For those who have adopted pandemic puppies, if we got them from a breeder during the rush of breeding that accompanied the days of the pandemic, there may be a chaotic or hasty element to our dog’s early life that could be important to address and could be a key to their anxiety. Much has been written about these trends already by others so this is simply an acknowledgement of the reality, without judgement.
Dogs can remember and have impressions of their early days just as humans can. A client couple I served last year are guardians to a young spaniel who in addition to his separation anxiety, also startled at sudden motions and sounds. They were giving him nutritional supplements such as taurine to fortify his nervous system. In my session with him, we went ‘down and in’ to see what this sweet dog was experiencing when he was left at home in his crate.
The symptoms were actually connected at the cause. For this little dog, he was the last of his litter to go. He remembered being behind a partition with his brothers and sisters and deep voices speaking on the other side of it and then hands coming down as though from the sky and one by one his siblings disappearing. The breeder was not purposefully doing anything wrong, it was simply customary, but this little dog he learned to fear unexpected circumstances and also desperately needed a source of continuity.
These are just examples of some of the work of Animal Communication, and things you can discover when working with a communicator. We are all about finding solutions, so here are some approaches to consider—and how the stories turned out!
Clearing yourself to be clearer for your dog: a communicator’s strategy to sort out your thoughts
One of the very first things I do as a communicator when I’m initiating a session is to acknowledge and name my own thoughts and feelings so that I won’t attribute them to the animal. So what I am going to share here is a bit of my own technique. To me, this is the strong basis for helping your dog.
So sit with the situation. Leave your devices out of reach, and go somewhere without distractions where you can breathe. Breathe slowly until you can feel the buzzing subsiding from your body. When you feel more calmed down, ask yourself: ‘What am I thinking/feeling about leaving home?’ Take some time with that. Then ‘What am I thinking/feeling about going back to the office?’ Although there may be some overlap between them, these are two separate things. Take time for both. If you are scared for any reason, admit it.
Leave off trying to analyze or correct your thoughts about these issues, simply identify them. For me when I’m sitting with my eyes closed, I can almost see all the issues that are ‘up’ for me floating around me in bubbles. ‘There is this, and that is that….’ This is only about cataloguing, and it’s only for you and your dog. Know how you are feeling, and what you are thinking about, rather than what the world seems to want you to feel and think about.
This is what your dog is picking up on anyway but you may not have sorted it out yet, Once you are clear for yourself, you can be clear for your dog. By being brave to own and name your own feelings to yourself, you are putting yourself back on center for your beloved dog. And you can move forward from there.
A communicator’s strategy for giving your dog a ‘new job’!
Remember our valiant officer dog? What we did with him was to have his guardian establish a system of checkpoints where she would check back in with him telepathically during the day and send him a vision of where she was so that he would know she was safe. She would even ask for his input if she had a question of how to proceed. This was not patronizing of him, this was taking him and his emotional needs as an individual very seriously. She knew exactly what he needed, and her action on this considerably alleviated his stress when she left the flat.
Most dogs need a ‘job,’ at least a sense of purpose of what they are for us, just like humans who suffer mentally when they are made redundant. If you have been relying a lot on your dog during lockdown, get creative, empathetic, and compassionate and think of how you can convey their importance to you into your new form of life. NOT as a token—seriously. You may find their former anxiety behaviors shift simply because you took the time to know them even better and to do this.
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A communicator’s strategy to cultivate a connection with your dog while you’re absent
I’ve just alluded to establishing a telepathic link with your dog when you go back to the office for work. In the old world, many of us were already quite familiar with the fact that our animals knew when we were going to be coming home, even if we’re off schedule and come home in the middle of the day. It didn’t even have to do with the volume of time or slant of light—it was because they knew we were coming home.
If this is possible then I assure you the rest is possible too.
For the little spaniel, his guardian couple cultivated a secret language with him as their way of maintaining the link, of signalling ‘We will be back for you’ and ‘Here we are again, we told you.’ I asked the little dog if he would like another dog in the house as a sense of continuity—like a sibling, but this time one who never gets plucked up and taken away. He replied enthusiastically, Yes! This action step is not something I usually would put on a client, and it seems counterintuitive that it would make less work and stress to have two dogs, but in this case, it actually would—so I asked them to please consider doing it when they were ready. Sometimes the remedy is as obvious as something like that.
Dogs are so entwined with humans’ lives that they are mirrors for us. Our problems become their problems, and they take these on sometimes willingly, sometimes unconsciously. The ‘getting clear’ exercise I provide above may seem out of place in an animal article because of being more about us and less about them—but getting the ‘us’ part straight in this case is the first step that serves them. The other examples are to remind us to look a layer deeper instead of making an assumption. I encourage you to become more familiar with Animal Communication and how it is a resource to help you support the beloved dog in your life—through unusual times and through all times.
This guest post was written by:
Laura Marjorie Miller ~ founder of O Best Beloved Animal Communication. A professional animal communicator certified through AnimalTalk Africa, she works with both domesticated animals in private families, and wild animals in captivity in both sanctuaries and zoos, to help the human people who care for them more deeply understand their needs. Her mission is to normalize animal communication to foster a kinder, more peaceful world for both human and nonhuman animals.