Helping Our Pets Adjust When We Return to Work Post COVID-19
Our furry companions have been through a lot this year – First, they had to adjust to their owners constantly being around, and now, as the restrictions due to COVID-19 are slowly being lifted, the sense of consistency and routine is again at stake.
Dogs respond well to repetition, and sudden changes like those caused by the pandemic can come hard to their emotional state, causing symptoms of separation anxiety, aggression, and sometimes chronic depression.
Just like when moving , the key is to make the transition as unnoticeable as possible, and with a few quick techniques, both you and your furry companion will overcome the stressful changes of returning to work in no time.
Don’t underestimate the power of routine – work on a new, feasible schedule
When the COVID-19 pandemic imposed sudden restrictions, most dog parents tried to maintain the feeding, walking, and playing schedule to help their pups feel secure and happy. Now that most household members need to be out more, sometimes leaving the dog alone, the dog’s daily activities must stay as unaltered as possible.
To make this feasible, it’s best to think about the necessary daily obligations before you get back to work or school so that you’re prepared when the time comes for busy work days again.
For instance, make sure you’ve included enough potty breaks for your pup before you head out for the day. An active, vigorous hour-long walk can also help your dog burn excess energy and get ready for a peaceful snooze once back home. If you’re out for most of the day, make arrangements with your neighbors, friends, or hire a person to help with regular meals and walks. You may have to get up a bit earlier or make some time-consuming adjustments to make this work, but keeping a sense of control and consistency is the primary step to a stress-free transition.
Though cats are more independent, the principle is the same. Some indoor-housed cats – especially those who are the only pet in the house – can become anxious when left alone for long periods of time, and more so if they have been used to having you around so much. Try to uphold their routine, and if they’ve gotten used to snuggling you on the couch every day, it’s a thoughtful idea to invest in a warm cat bed and even add something of yours inside so they are comforted by your scent.
Turn their alone time into fun time
Just because your dog is being left alone for a while, it doesn’t mean it has to be boring! There are plenty of options for mind boosting games and stimulating doggy activities that your pooch can enjoy when they are home alone.
Dogs tend to become restless, anxious, and aggressive when they are bored for too long. If you know your four-legged friend has a hard time without you, utilize games and interactive activities to keep them occupied. There are fun DIY indoor games to look up online which don’t require much preparation and resources, just simple creativity. For instance, you can play hide-and-seek by placing treats or toys around the house and letting your pup try to find them. You can also fill the kong toy with peanut butter or any other delicious snack, and, just like that, you’ve created 30 minutes of pure entertainment.
Food dispensing toys are also an easy way to mentally stimulate your pup and keep them busy for some time. These toys work by filling them with treats and require the dog to engage in a task to figure out how to get to the prize. You may need to encourage your pup to use the toy, but once he takes a liking to it, it will be an endless source of fun. Simply put, anything that can positively engage your pup mentally and physically (without destroying your furniture) is welcome.
A really fun and inclusive option is a camera-based treat dispenser like the Furbo Treat Tossing Dog Camera – this smart device can stream a live feed from your doggie at home to your phone/tablet, send precious selfies and even provide timed treat dispensing! Your dog will love playing catch-the-treat as it flies out of the unit – so much fun!
Keep the arrivals and departures simple and low-key
This is a simple yet important step in the adjustment process. If you’re used to your pooch jumping excitedly into your arms as soon as you come home, this can be your way of saying, “ It’s such a big deal that I’m home now,” which will only make it harder for you to leave next time.
Similarly, long and sorrowful goodbyes on your way to work can also show your dog that he won’t be fine without you.
Help them to adjust gradually
Having enjoyed so much more of your company at home, it can feel like a sudden shock to have you gone all day. To reduce the onset of any unnecessary anxiety, prepare them for this change by gradually building up the amount of time that you leave them alone. Start with small absences whilst keeping the fuss around goodbyes and greetings to a minimum. Start with 10 to 15 minutes to make the difference unnoticeable. Gradually increase the periods outside the house, and eventually, your pup will seamlessly accept it. To make this feasible, start with the process before you have to make drastic changes to your daily schedule.
Last but not least – make their environment inviting and pleasant
Some dogs develop separation anxiety because they feel uncomfortable in a quiet, empty, and even worse, dark home . To simulate a busy room full of people, make sure you create a relaxing haven for your dog to enjoy while you’re gone. You can leave the lights on, the TV on low volume, or play some background music, so the dog doesn’t feel so lonely.
If your pup is having significant behavioral issues, it can be necessary to leave them in a crate or enclosed in one room. Your dog’s misbehavior is his reaction to anxiety, fear, and stress due to your departure, and enclosing them in a small space may only amplify the adverse reactions, but in some cases it can help. If you do decide to try this, ensure that your dog feels as comfortable as possible – as if the crate or room is a sanctuary for them. Feed them in it, give them treats and a comfy place to lay down, and never create a negative association to the space by punishing them in it. Alternatively, try to make different arrangements or consider hiring someone to care for your dog when you can’t be there.