We are all seeing the hilarious memes about family dogs tired out from too many walks. My personal favorite features a dog perched on top of some kitchen cabinets, refusing to come down for yet another walk. As tired as our pets may be with the constant company of their humans, the reality is that we have established a new normal for our pets. And that “normal” is going to change!
Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavioral disorders of dogs in America. It is often triggered by changes in schedule. For example, separation anxiety is extremely common each fall when school-age children and teachers return to their classrooms. Now imagine that the entire family has been home for 8 to 12 weeks before “suddenly” leaving again! The hardest part of this pandemic for our pets is going all the quiet and loneliness they experience when we all return to work full time.
Here are some tips to help you – and more importantly, your pet – as you prepare to return to work outside of the home:
1. Establish a schedule that you will be able to keep once you return to work outside of the home. Implement the schedule now so that your pet has several weeks to adjust before you are actually gone 8 hours a day!
2. If you are walking your dog every day, figure out how you can continue this habit! Maybe it is a shorter walk, but it should still happen.
3. Practice leaving your house—and leaving your pet behind. Try to mimic what your schedule will be. If you typically leave the house for work at 7 am, try a short five-minute trip outdoors without your pet at that time each day.
4. If your pet is fed on a schedule, adjust that schedule so that it fits with your upcoming at-work schedule. Don’t feed three times daily if you can’t do that once you head back to work!
5. Find a way to continue all of this stimulation. With a little creativity, it can be done!
6. Consider indoor activities instead of long walks. Stock up on Kong toys or puzzle feeders and start a routine of giving one to your pet each morning.
7. Play a fast game of fetch in the backyard. It can be done quickly and involves a lot of running, wearing your pet out even more than a walk. A 10-minute game of fetch might be the perfect substitute for that 30-minute walk you’re taking right now.
8. Stimulate your pets’ brains as well! Make a habit of doing a quick 5- to 10-minute training session (practice tricks like sit, down, and stay) before you leave for work and right when you get home.
9. Try new games like hide and go seek, 100 things to do with a box, and Tug-of-War. You might even pop bubbles with your pet. Anything to get them moving or engage their brain!
10. Establish a leave-taking routine and practice it now. Turn on the TV or some music. Give your pet an interactive toy – one that contains delicious treats is best! Let them start chewing away and then sneak out of the house. Don’t say goodbye! Only stay away for a few minutes. Return to a calm dog, whom you ignore. Pretend you never left. The idea is to make it seem like “no big deal” when you leave the house.
Overwhelmed? Consider enlisting outside help.
Maybe there’s a dog walker in your neighborhood that can take over those leisurely strolls. Consider sharing duties with a neighbor—you can walk their dog twice a week if they do the same for yours
Doggie daycare might be the best option, at least during this transition time. Call Shaver Road Animal Hospital to find out more about our new Doggie Daycare options!
Did you get a new puppy during your time at home?
If you don’t have them crate-trained, this would be the time to provide a comforting crate! Refer to our crate training guide for the best ways to make the crate a fun and safe place for your pet! (No pressure, but if you don’t do this properly the crate can actually increase anxiety.)
With a little effort now, your pet will be just fine when you return to work as “normal.” If you procrastinate, you might just come home to this one day: