7 Tips to Prepare Your Pet for Your Return to Work

How to get your pet ready for the end of remote working

For many pet owners, working from home during COVID-19 shutdowns came with the unexpected benefit of more snout time with their dogs and cats.

After more than a year of near-constant contact with our furry friends, how will pets react as more of their humans return to work?

New pets during COVID-19

Dog and cat adoption rates skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. People replaced human interaction with animal companions.

Because of stay-at-home orders and safety measures, new dogs and cats added to households during this time haven’t been exposed to other animals or people.

As the world continues to open up, “pandemic pets” are realizing it’s a bigger, scarier place full of unfamiliar people, animals and experiences (like their trusted humans suddenly leaving for hours at a time). Anxiety and fear are natural outcomes.

Owners can take specific steps to help both pets adopted during COVID-19 and longtime companions who have simply gotten used to having us around full-time.

Will our dogs and cats miss us when we go back to work?

While cats are stereotypically more independent and may even welcome having the place to themselves again, change can still upset them. Dogs are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety when owners return to work.

There are steps you can take ahead of time to ease this tough transition for your dog or cat.

Dr. John Howe, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), reminds us that dogs and cats are creatures of routine.

“They’ve probably gotten very accustomed to having us around the house all day during the pandemic; for pets adopted over the past couple of months, this may be the only routine they’ve ever known,” he says. “So as more of us transition back to work and regular schedules we need to prepare our pets for this new routine.”

7 Tips for Easing Your Pet’s Transition as You Return to Work

These ideas, based on the AVMA’s guidelines, will help your dog or cat adjust to post-COVID life and become a more self-confident animal.

  • Get on a schedule. Consistency is key and helps your pet feel safe and secure. If you haven’t been on a regular schedule until now, introduce one slowly. Set up feeding times, potty breaks and play sessions on a schedule you can maintain once you’re back at work.
  • Trial runs can help take the anxiety out of your departure. Practice leaving your animal alone for short periods of time. This acclimates them to the idea that when you leave, you come back. Gradually lengthen the time you’re gone.

If you notice your pet gets anxious from noticing your behavior cues like grabbing the car keys, try repeating those behaviors and then not leaving. That way, the dog or cat disassociates those actions from feelings of anxiety. You can also mix up your routine, so your pet doesn’t pick up on the same signals each time.

  • Exercise and activity. Long walks or play sessions before you leave the house can help tire out your dog or cat. A tired pet is happy pet.
  • Keep them busy while you’re gone. Plan plenty of activities and enrichment to keep your cat or dog happy while you’re at work. Chew toys, a Kong filled with frozen treats, puzzle feeders, automatic feeders and mentally stimulating toys will help keep your furry friend’s focus off your whereabouts.
  • Create a safe space. Gates and crates keep your pet contained to one area. This is less stressful for the animal and the owner. If your dog was crate-trained before COVID but hasn’t been in the crate lately, you can slowly reintroduce the idea until she accepts it again.

If your dog has never used a crate, you can introduce crate training now. Include lots of rewards to make it worth his while to go in the crate. Start with very short periods of time.

  • Watch for signs of stress. See below for a vet checklist.
  • Get professional help. If your efforts aren’t working, consult with your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist for more help.

Other daytime animal care options

Dogs who do okay around other animals may like doggy daycare, where they’ll get lots of interaction with other animals. It’s not cheap, but it costs less than replacing a chewed-up couch or door frame. Dogs get so tired playing all day, they often get home and sleep.

If your dog doesn’t do well in a group setting (or you have a cat who likes human company), hiring a pet sitter to come to your house is another option.

Signs of separation anxiety

As you transition away from working remotely, keep a lookout for these signs of separation anxiety in your dog or cat.

  • Destroying furniture, floors or other household items
  • Chewing or biting at paws excessively
  • More drooling than typical
  • More barking or whining than usual
  • Housetraining accidents
  • Panting
  • Pacing back and forth
  • Refusing to drink or eat until you come home

If you need a quick refresher on basic dog training, check out our post.

It’s been a long time since you and your pet had to say goodbye at the door. By preparing ahead of time, you can make this tough transition easier on both of you.

Need More Help?

Dog and cat owners can support animal behavior naturally. We love PetCalm™, Scare-D-Pet™, Full-Strength Hemp Extract and these other favorites for supporting pet behavior.

Related Links:

10 Signs Your Dog is Stressed https://petalive.blog/2020/10/01/10-signs-your-dog-is-stressed/

CBD for Pets https://petalive.blog/2019/02/01/cbd-for-pets/

Seasonal Stress and Your Pet https://petalive.blog/2018/12/03/seasonal-stress-and-your-pet/

Tips and Tricks for Training Your New Puppy https://petalive.blog/2018/07/02/tips-and-tricks-for-training-your-new-puppy/

Sources:

  1. Menjivar, Stefanie. “How to Prepare Your Dog for Your Return to Work.” Accessed April 29, 2021. https://kenneltocouch.org/2020/05/how-to-prepare-your-dog-for-your-return-to-work/
  2. “Preparing Your Furry Co-worked for Your Return to Work.” Animal Emergency & Referral Associates. Accessed April 20, 2021. https://www.animalerc.com/preparing-your-pet-for-your-return-to-work/
  3. “COVID-19: 7 steps to help your pet prepare for your return to work.” American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.avma.org/news/press-releases/covid-19-7-steps-help-your-pet-prepare-your-return-work
  4.  “How to prepare your pets for the end of lockdown.” Inhabitat. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://inhabitat.com/how-to-prepare-your-pets-for-the-end-of-lockdown/
  5. Spicer, Kimberlee. “Returning to Work: Preparing Your Pets.” Seattle Animal Shelter. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://thescoop.seattle.gov/2020/07/03/returning-to-work-preparing-your-pets/

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