Many of us dog owners work in offices that have been closed for 18 months now. With the return to normal now in sight for many of us, it’s time to start preparing our pets for our disappearing back to offices.
Many dogs have gotten used to having their families home all day during lockdowns, and many dogs who joined families during lockdown have never known life any other way. Adjusting to the change of being left alone for long periods will be hard for many dogs. We’ve pulled together some tips to help you ease them into life after lockdown.
If your dog has never spent long periods alone, don’t just wait until the day you go back to the office and disappear out the door! If your dog usually keeps you company while you work, try working in a different room if possible – building up the hours apart. Leave your dog at home while you go to the shops or visit friends, so they get used to you leaving, and know you come back again.
Dogs thrive with routine so start adjusting your routine to reflect life once you return to the office. If you won’t be home at the time you usually feed them, start moving feeding time to outside your working hours. Walk or exercise them before your workday starts, so this will become their new routine. If you are going to be working from home some days in the future, stick to your routine on those days, as if you were working in the office.
Try to walk or exercise your dog before you leave for work. This way they will have expended some pent-up energy and will be more likely to relax and snooze while you’re away. If you can’t fit in a walk before work, try throwing a ball for them in the garden, or working on some obedience training to tire them out.
Getting ready to leave
Dogs watch and respond to your every move, and seeing you get your shoes or keys can trigger their anxiety to start ramping up. Practice this leaving routine regularly without leaving to help desensitise your dog to these cues.
When you do leave, don’t make a huge fuss about your dog before you go. Again, this alerts them to the fact that you are leaving and can start them fretting. Stay calm, and consider using a phrase as you leave. This phrase will become an association with your dog that you will be back. Use something simple, that won’t be used in other situations. Some options are “stay and be good” or “Be good while I’m gone”.
While you’re out
Make sure they have a comfy bed to relax in and access to plenty of water. You can leave them some safe toys to keep them occupied while you’re out. Keep one that is especially good fun and only give it to them when you’re leaving the house. This way they will associate you leaving with the perk of getting a great toy.
Leave some unwashed old clothes in your dogs’ bed while you’re gone. This will reassure them by having your scent close to them.
If possible, pop home on your lunch to let them out to the toile. If you work too far away ask a friend or neighbour pop in.
If your dog is still struggling with separation anxiety you could consider other options such as
- Pet sitters
- Doggie day-care
- Speak to your vet about anti-anxiety medication
- Speak to a behaviourist about treating separation anxiety in your dog
Putting a plan in place to help them adjust will make the transition less traumatic for your pet. How you cope with being away from your best friend is another story!