The year is coming to an end and with it, there are cautious noises about the beginning of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. There’s a sense of relief in the air that things may be getting back to normal.
And getting back to work in an office is part of that normalcy. WFH became the norm for almost 2 years. But things are slowly changing as businesses, coping with Zoom fatigue and struggles over employee burnout, are pushing for a return to offices or workspaces.
But wait, while offices open up and meetings become real, what about those in our lives who don’t have Zoom calls, but will nevertheless be part of this sea change?
We are talking about our pets, especially dogs. And we are talking about the very real stress that pets will go through as a significant portion of stay-at-home hoomans start to go out, socialize, and spend more time outside.
If you know that you are going to eventually start spending the majority of your days again in your office, your pet/s might need to do a lot of adjusting. Avoid creating separation anxiety in your pet due to your sudden absence by helping your pet ease into a different scenario. Start training your pet a few days or even weeks before you change routines.
We suggest a few ways in which you can make the transition easier for you and your pets.
Rearrange your routine
You had a structured routine before the pandemic broke out. Try to retain that routine with small changes wherever needed. If your pet has become used to playtime anytime because you are at home, try to set a particular time and help your pet get used to that slot. Similarly, set a fixed time for walks, sleep, and meals. Make sure to set a routine that’s also comfortable for you to maintain when you return to work.
Establish time away
Start to ease your pet into the new normal. Let your pet slowly begin to get used to the idea of being separated. Go out for an hour or so, and start to extend this time slowly as they get used to your absence.
Adjust the length of time based on their reactions. Remember, this is all new to them and they are learning in their own way. If they have been on their best behavior, acknowledge that and help them understand that every time you are away you will return to them.
Provide your pet with a treat or toy to play with during the period you are away. This will help them to associate your departure with something positive. Some pet owners even play music when they are away, and it often works wonders in dogs, soothing them.
The RSPCA recommends not leaving your pet alone for more than four hours. Since that’s not always possible, try roping in a helpful neighbor or someone from your family to spend time with your pet or simply come and check in on them. Another option is to leave your pet in a daycare for a few hours. If you’re lucky enough to work in a pet-friendly workplace that allows you to take your pet to work, consider doing that.
Keep a close watch for any signs of separation anxiety. Pets will tend to look for behaviors that reinforced your presence previously. Is there excess barking? Nervous pacing? Scratched doorposts? All of these could be indications of separation anxiety. If you do see signs of anxiety, don’t lose your patience or resort to punishment. Get in touch with your vet or an animal therapist to understand better how to deal with it.
Exercise your pets more
Increase the duration of your pet’s exercise. Take them for a long walk in the morning or indulge in some high-energy playtime with your pet to tire them out before you leave the house. This will make them more likely to sleep longer rather than stress during your absence. When you’re back, take them for a walk again.
Getting back to the old normal might be a challenging period for both you and your pet.