How many of you with pets returned home from your first day back in the office to torn up furniture, trash cans toppled over, scratch marks all over the baseboards or a note from a neighbor complaining of constant barking? Separation anxiety in pets is very real, but there are ways to ease the transition.
With everybody leaving the house during the day, pets are banished to gated rooms or crates. Some are lucky enough to roam through the house freely but what are they supposed to do all day? No longer do they get extended walks, random play time, cuddles on the couch and plenty of table scraps they’ve enjoyed for months.
My dog, Ellie, was no exception. She got used to having me home every day and catering to her every need and want. I could see the anxiety building up in Ellie when I would leave the house, even for short periods of time. Barking constantly when I closed the door behind me and greeting me by jumping and barking when I returned (even if I just took out the trash).
When I heard we would be returning to the office, I was very excited, and I was a little nervous as well. It had been 18 months since I had to leave Ellie for an entire day. As big of an adjustment as it would be for me, I knew it would be an even bigger one for Ellie.
3 Ways to ease the transition
Unfortunately, I did not properly prepare Ellie for my return to work. The transition should have started early so she could have adjusted. Take the time to make this transition for your pets as smooth as possible. Your dog has been your support system during these hard times, now it is your time to make sure they are comfortable and ready for the post-pandemic world.
Create a new routine
Ease the transition for your pet by creating a routine similar to your work routine. If your bedtime and wake time are going to change, start that change now. Set fixed times for different activities, including play, exercise, walks and meals. Start leaving your pet alone, no matter how hard it is for your pup, or you! Start small and work up to the 8-10 hour stretch of going to work. When you return, praise them on their good behavior and remind them that you will always come home to them.
Take the anxiety out of your departure
Another step you can take to ease the transition is to take the anxiety out of your departure. Try extending your morning walk or spend extra time playing fetch in the backyard before work. Spend quality time tiring them out so they will spend more time snoozing and less time stressing (barking) during the day! Give them something to do by leaving toys or chews. Make sure to rotate the toys to help them stay mentally active and stave off boredom.
Remember, your dog is observant. If you are stressed about leaving them, they will pick up on it, increasing their anxiety. Remain calm and patient with your departure and return.
Spend extra time with your pet
When you get home, take time for an extra walk or playtime, no matter how tired you are. If you’re going out after work, consider taking your pup with you! During the weekends, choose activities that include your dog. Go to a park, the beach or plan a picnic. You don’t have to give up your whole weekend, just enough to make your pup feel loved and included. Our pets are just one part of our life but for our dogs, we are their WHOLE life!