As the COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, many will be returning to their workplaces again. But have you considered the impact this will have on your pet?
Dogs are more prone to stress if left alone. Cats, while they do have a more solitary nature, still need regular contact and affection from their owners. If you got a new pet during the lockdown, they will have benefitted a lot from having you around all day, and won’t have known an alternative routine without you yet.
Separation anxiety and/or boredom in your pet is a concern when you now have to be missing for large portions of the day. Symptoms of anxiety in dogs include whining, howling and barking or they may become depressed or destructive. Cats may groom excessively, vocalise, become depressed, and even develop stress related illnesses. This can best be avoided by preparing your pet in advance for your return to work.
Get Prepared Now to Avoid Separation Anxiety
Practice Distance: While you’re still at home, stay in a separate part of the house away from your pet after they have exercised and eaten so that they are relaxed. Encourage them to settle in their beds and start taking short trips away from the house, gradually increasing the time spent away.
Create Routine: Routines are very comforting for dogs and cats, so if possible start putting your new work routine in place before returning to work. Get up at a set time, feed them, etc. then leave the house for gradually increasing periods of time. Keep strong daily routines in place with times for play, toileting, walks and affection/cuddles, in line with appropriate times that will fit your work schedule once you are no longer working from home. This will build their confidence that you will return from your outings!
Wear them Out: If possible, give your dog a walk or your cat active play before you leave, to help them to settle and rest while you’re gone.
Coming Home: Be very calm as you leave the house, and when you get home ignore any excited behaviour. Talk soothingly and wait until they have calmed down again to pet them and be affectionate.
Create a soothing and enriched environment
Your pet will quickly notice the things you do before leaving the house like getting your coat or packing a lunch. This may trigger anxiety, but stay calm and speak with a soothing voice. Before you leave provide a relaxing environment with the following:
- Radio: Keep a radio on nearby as background music and human voices can be soothing for pets.
- Chew toys: Chewy toys, treats and frozen stuffed Kong toys will keep dogs content. Chewing has a calming effect and will keep them both occupied and relaxed.
- Puzzle toy feeders: And hiding food in different locations can also help mentally stimulate your dog or cat and tire them out so they will then sleep for a long period
- A soft bed: will help them to get cosy and relaxed in and add in an item of your own clothing with your scent on it.
- Pheromones: Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP) are sold as plug-in diffusers or slow release collars for relieving stress. There are similar products for cats.
- Enriched environment: Toys, scratching posts and climbing areas are great for cats. Vary the toys that you provide each day as cats love novelty.
Get Outside Help
If your work day is very long and there is nobody to check on your dog during the day consider hiring a local dog walker or bringing your dog to a Doggy Day Care facility even a few days a week so they can benefit from play with other dogs, socialisation etc.
Get Professional Help
If your dog is not settling in your absence, you may need some guidance from a dog trainer. If your dog is very anxious, talk to your vet. They may provide a sedative-type medication for a short period to help your pet make the adjustment. If necessary, they will refer you to an animal behaviourist who will work with you and your pet to help improve their response to being left alone.
This guidance is for general information purposes only.