For humans, the onset of the pandemic was nerve-racking. The idea of sheltering-in-place for weeks on end and canceling all social events for the foreseeable future was disappointing and frustrating. However, for dogs, this scenario was a dream come true. Not only were their favorite people around all the time, but they also were readily available to take them for walks, cuddle during Zoom meetings and rest on the couch together.
Now, after months of being with your dog at home, you may be starting to transition back to the workplace. Not only will you have to adapt to your new normal, but your dog also will have to adjust to being alone more often.
These tips can help ease the transition for your dog:
Start Leaving Your Dog at Home Alone for Short Periods of Time
If you are given advance notice about your return to work, then the first thing you should do is start preparing your dog for the separation. Perhaps you have spent the last several months taking your dog to the park with you every morning for a jog, or maybe you have brought your pooch to every restaurant with a pet-friendly patio in the city. While you and your pet likely love these excursions, it's time to put some distance between you two. Leaving your dog at home alone for an hour or two at a time before you return to work will help your pet become accustomed to the time apart. You can start slowly and build in more time away from home in the weeks leading up to your return to work.
Wear Your Work Clothes Around the House
This might seem like a strange thing to do before you actually have to head back to the office, but it will provide your pet with an important visual clue that things are about to change. Your dog will notice the fact that you are no longer wearing the comfortable athleisure wear that you opted for during the quarantine. By seeing you in the office apparel that you wore during normal times, your pet will recognize that you are going to be heading out the door again relatively soon. It's a simple way that you can help your dog mentally prepare for what is to come.
Reintroduce Your Dog to His Crate
If you intend to keep your dog in his crate while you are away at work, it is important that you slowly reintroduce your dog to it before you begin your new schedule. One of the best ways to do this is to have your dog take a small morning or afternoon nap in his crate. This will remind your dog that the crate is a safe space where he can comfortably rest. The most important thing is that you allow your dog to feel at ease in this space. Do not punish your dog by sending him to his crate, as this will force your dog to associate the crate with negative experiences. Encourage your dog to willingly go into the crate and rest. You can make your pet feel more comfortable by including one of your T-shirts or blankets so he can feel physically close to you while you are away.
Adjust Meal Times Slowly Before You Head Back to Work
As you took on a more relaxed schedule while you were working from home, you may have adjusted your pet's meal times accordingly. Prior to heading back to work, you should slowly move the meal times back to accommodate your schedule. This will prevent your pet from feeling too hungry as they wait for you to come home from work, and will prepare them for the reality of your work schedule.
Monitor Your Pet for Signs of Stress
One of the benefits of slowly transitioning your pet to its new schedule is that you can monitor your dog for signs of stress. Some of the most common signs of stress in dogs include:
- Barking when you attempt to leave the house. This is a sign that your pet does not want you to leave.
- Destructive behavior when you are gone. Some dogs resort to chewing on shoes or scratching at carpet because they are nervous or scared.
- Having accidents in the house, even if the dog is house trained. Sometimes, nervousness or anxiety causes your dog to lose control over its bowels or bladder. In other cases, your pet may be having a difficult time holding it for the length of time that you are gone.
If you notice any signs of stress, you should contact your veterinarian in order to come up with a plan to help your dog feel more comfortable and less anxious while you are away.
Consider Enrolling Your Pet in Daycare
Dogs are social creatures, and your pet is going to miss you very much when you return to work. If you think your pet could benefit from socialization while you are away, you may want to consider enrolling it at a nearby dog daycare.
Just as it took some time to adjust to working remotely, it is going to take a few weeks for you and your pet to get used to your new routine. Have patience with your pet and go easy on yourself. This is a challenging time in many ways, but when you take it slow and ease your pet into the transition, you will find that the adjustment will be smoother than expected.
If you have any concerns about the mental or physical health of your pet during this time, be sure to contact the veterinarian as soon as possible. They can provide you with further guidance on how you can help your pet as you transition back to work.