The return to face-to-face work meant for Nuria Alonso, a 36-year-old administrator from Madrid, the adoption of new routines. Instead of getting up at half past seven in the morning, she moved the alarm clock forward to six. She lengthened the brisk walk she was taking sugus, a nervous fleece poodle, and began taking long walks. Then she normalized a complicated choreography designed to fool the dog: Alonso locks himself in his room before the animal’s watchful eye. His mother then takes him to another room. She takes advantage of her absence to sneak out of her bedroom, careful to re-lock the door, and she quietly leaves the house. “That way he thinks I’m still in my room and he stays calmer,” she explains by phone. It’s the only way, if not, he spends the day crying and barking. “I am afraid that one day Seprona will appear at my door, that it seems that we are mistreating him,” Alonso laments. the one of sugus It is an extreme case, but it is far from special.
It’s called separation anxiety (APS) and it’s a disorder that affects dogs that don’t know how to deal with the absence of their owners. When the animal is left alone at home it begins to cry or bark. Some break furniture, others urinate on the carpet. This disorder usually affects puppies more in their first months of life, especially those with an insecure nature. It is more common in certain breeds such as Labrador, border collie or german shepherd. But the pandemic has triggered the appearance of APS episodes in dogs of all breeds and ages.
sugus it is “a pandemic dog”, explains Alonso. He spent his first months of life in a house where there was always someone. In Spain there are 2.3 million dogs like him. The confinement triggered the canine population by 38%, according to the National Association of Pet Food Manufacturers. There is a pack of biblical dimensions that has grown in homes always full of people, normalizing what was exceptional.
At the Alonso house, the confinement was strictly adhered to. He only went outside to walk the dog or to do some shopping once a week. sugus I was happy. Many dogs were then. According to a study by Applied Animal Behavior Science, 65% of respondents indicated that their dogs reduced tension during the pandemic, that they were happy and played more.
But the situation changed, also for sugus. As his owners began to return to normal, he was left alone for longer and longer. At first, he accepted it with resignation, but when Alonso returned to a blended job, he exploded. He started barking and crying every time he was left alone. His owner tried to fix it with a muzzle, leaving him at relatives’ houses, with prizes and sweets… “I couldn’t even do the shopping in peace,” he laments. Finally, he went to a dog trainer.
Her name is Carmen Martínez and she believes that the case of sugus it is paradigmatic. “Teleworking has been a double-edged sword,” he explains in messages. “In our society many dogs spend too many hours alone at home. This is a social species that tends to live in groups, spending so many hours alone does not comply with its natural behavior patterns”, Martínez concedes. But confinement and teleworking caused some people to go to the opposite extreme. “They were accompanied for many hours and when the tutors have restarted their activities, the families have begun to have problems.”
It was not the case of Arancha Naranjo. This 38-year-old from Extremadura combines teleworking with days at the office. She always does it next to Margot, a nine year old mixed breed dog. At her job, at the Bungalow25 advertising agency, they allow dogs inside. “Margot She has never had APS,” she explains in a telephone conversation, “but in the end we work long hours and I don’t like that she stays alone for so long.”
Julio Gálvez, associate creative director of the company, also sees it that way. Partly because he also has a dog, Yogi, that it is very bad to stay at home alone. And partly because he understands that this retains workers and gives them a better quality of life. “Dogs are part of the family and conciliation also affects them,” he says. In the mornings, Yogi and Margot They arrive at the office, greet each other, caress each other and lie down on their beds. All around you, the clucking of keyboards, the beeping of notifications, and muffled conversations create a familiar monotone hum. The dogs here are so calm. “I wish more companies were like this,” says Naranjo. “My dog is happier and so am I,” he admits.
Some tech companies, including Amazon, Google, Squarespace, and Etsy, normalized the presence of dogs in offices even before the pandemic. Others have started to do so in recent months as a way to retain their workers. But they are still few. Naranjo knows that his case is an exception, but he believes that it should be the rule. Reconciling is also this, he points out: “I understand that a dog is not a baby, but I have encountered a lot of misunderstanding in other jobs where the hours were long and I could not take myself to Margot”.
“It should be more common,” agrees Enric Rodríguez, ethologist and author of the book Train in positive. “Dogs, as companion animals and in some cases even as assistance, do a great job in our society. It is time for us to adapt it to life with them”.
Another option, more and more widespread, is to leave the dogs in kennels or hire a walker to entertain the dog in the absence of their owners. From Animal Solution, a Madrid pet nursery, they confirm that there has been an increase in requests since the return to the new normality. “Nurseries have always existed, but in recent years the sector has become more professional,” says its owner, Luis Sousa, a veterinarian with more than 30 years of experience. In their enclosure they have room for just over a dozen dogs and in recent months they have posted the full sign several times.
Nuria Alonso has bought a digital camera that records the dog in her absence and transmits the image live to her mobile. “I look at it two or three times an hour,” she explains, anguished. Yours is a common solution. According to a PreciseSecurity study, sales of this type of device have skyrocketed. They have been growing for years at a rate of 18.4% and it is expected that by 2023 annual sales will exceed 300 million units.
Dog walkers, cameras, nurseries, family help… These options are the most used to stop an APS, but all have failed in the case of sugus. Alonso confesses to being frustrated and hopes that the coach’s help can tackle the problem. Hundreds of people are in your same situation. 26% of Spanish households have a dog, one of the highest percentages in Europe. The pandemic brought all these owners closer than ever with their dogs, but routine has separated them again. Now the workers demand conciliation measures. Many dogs, like sugusThey also protest, in their own way.