Perhaps the sole good thing about COVID-19 was all the time it gave us to be with our furry friends. Going for long walks, binge-watching TV and cuddling, and spending just about every waking moment of the day together has become the sheer joy of working from home. After counting down the hours until we could go home and see our dogs, this seems like a dream come true. However, as we wait patiently for the rebirth of our social lives and for everything to go back to normal, we await for work to return to normal as well—which means, all that one-on-one time will be scaled back a rather large amount. And as hard as it is for us, it might be even harder for our pets. So as we slowly bring things back to normal, here are some ways to ease our pets back to our work schedules.
Gently Expose Them to Your New Routine
The whole point of “easing” your pet back in is to help them slowly get used to your new routine. This means, don’t wait until the day you go back to work to leave them home for 8 hours straight. If you can’t estimate when you’ll be going back, start planning a few weeks ahead to familiarize them with the new normal. Instead of staying home all hours of the day, leave for an early morning walk. Grab lunch with a friend. Get some errands done.
Adding more and more activities to your daily routine won’t be as much of a shock to your pet in comparison to going right back to work. Separation anxiety is just as valid to your pet as it is to any other human, so don’t count them out. Giving them the extra time to adjust to your schedule will make this transition much easier for them. Eventually, they’ll get used to you coming and going without feeling the need to panic.
Stop The Smothering
Take this with a grain of salt—of course, you want to spend all day with your favorite companion! What’s better than curling up with your pup all day while you get your work done? But giving them too much love can end up hurting them in the long run. Because pets have gotten used to their owners being home much longer than they used to be, giving them that access of attention (during meals, in between calls, DURING calls, etc.), can feel like ripping off a bandaid when you eventually go back to the office and they’re still stuck at home.
According to a Veterinary Natural’s survey, dog owners reported several primary anxious dog behaviors when they left for work, including barking/howling, chewing household objects, and restlessness. Being proactive and spending a reasonable amount of time together will keep them happy and prepared for the future. You want to make going back to work as painless as possible for them; unfortunately, that means easing up a little on the hourly belly rubs and handfuls of treats.
Just like humans, animals can benefit tremendously from physical activity in more ways than one, especially when it comes to stress. Instead of spending your time together on the couch watching TV, make it meaningful for both of you. Take them for long walks, let them enjoy the fresh air, and indulge them when they want to play with their toys. Besides meeting the needs to stay active and healthy, it can help reduce their anxiety levels. Exploring new surroundings stimulates their brains and eases overactive minds. Additionally, playing with them when they’re feeling energetic allows them to get rid of some of their energy and bring out their playful side.
Give Them A “Safe Space”
As you expose your pet to your new schedule, it might be necessary to give them a special spot of their own that’s guaranteed to make them feel safe and calm. Like the idea of a “safety blanket” for babies, giving your animal a designated room, chair, bed, or corner of the house can give them comfort in times of stress. This spot works as their home base or escape; so even when you start leaving on a daily basis, they’ll know exactly where they can go.
When creating your animal’s “safe space”, make sure it’s:
- Easily accessible
This will ensure that it becomes second nature for your pet to go to this space when feeling stressed out.
Use Your Best Judgment
At the end of the day, no one knows your pet better than you. Adjusting these techniques to both you and your pet’s comfortability is necessary when transitioning them back to your regular routine. Plus, it’ll make them feel like they’re still in control. Just remember that as you prepare yourself for your new routine, you have to prepare them too!