Dog Days Are Over
How to prepare your pet for your transition back to work after COVID-19
There’s absolutely no doubt – our pets have been one of the winners during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many pets have undergone great upheaval to their usual routines over the past few months. The necessity of isolating from friends and family has meant that we are spending more time at home. For many pets this has been their first experience of their owners working from home for a prolonged period of time.
Conversely, the pets of essential workers may have had less time with their owners than they are used to.
There has been an increase in the number of people adopting, fostering and purchasing new pets. New pets will find the transition more difficult as this may be the first time they have been left on their own for a more prolonged period.
With the slow return of life to pre-Covid 19 times many pet owners are concerned about how their pets will cope with their return to work and behavioural issues like separation anxiety emerging. There are a few simple strategies that will help make the transition easier. Most pets will make this transition fine but it is helpful to recognise there are some that won’t and to know when to get professional help.
How you can help your pets during this time
- A gentle transition back to the office in the form of reduced days or shorter hours and then slowly increasing hours (if possible) will help pets return to their normal pre-Covid 19 routine and help reduce separation anxiety.
- Stagger working hours with housemates/partners, or have Nanna drop by during the day, so that the time your pet spends alone is as short as possible.
- Many pets have had changes to their usual feeding and exercise regimes and care must be taken in the transition period to ensure that pets are still receiving adequate exercise for health and stimulation and that they are not fed excessively.
- An abrupt change to full time working out of the house will be an even harder transition for younger kittens and puppies.
It is especially important to ensure that they have adequate stimulation in the form of ‘safe’ toys, items such as slow-release treat balls and quality time with you before and after work.
- Be aware of new experiences that your pet may be having, for example, visitors to the household can be challenging for some pets. Ensure visitors are introduced gently and with lots of positive reinforcement in the form of praise and treats.
Also this may be the first time that newly adopted pets have prolonged periods of time with pre-existing household pets without the close supervision of their owners.
- The inability for routine Puppy School classes to run has meant that many new pet owners have missed the opportunity to learn routine health and training information. Plus new puppies have had reduced socialisation opportunities.
Take care when introducing them to new environments such as off-lead dog parks especially if their behaviour around other dogs is unknown or if you are uncertain how well they will return when called.
Visiting at quieter times of day such as early morning is a good idea until you have more of a feel for their behaviour. Remember new Covid-19 social etiquette with regards to social distancing.
- Contacting a local dog walker or doggy day care facility is a good way to support your local economy, give your pet less time alone, while providing exercise and socialisation opportunities for your pet.
Recognising separation anxiety
Most pets will cope with being left alone for variable periods of time. However, a subset of dogs suffer from separation anxiety and it is important to recognise the symptoms and seek professional help if they exist. The simpler measures mentioned above will not be adequate to calm a dog who is truly anxious. Owners should contact their vet for advice if your pet exhibits some or all of these signs:
- Excessive distress as you are leaving – whining, crying, jumping up on you.
- Excessive delight when you return – it is normal for a dog to be happy to see you but if they are wildly excited every time you come home it may be that they are distressed when you are away.
- Vocalising for prolonged periods whilst you are out- this includes crying, whimpering or barking. Ask neighbours and be upfront with them as you look for solutions to the problem. They will be more tolerant if communication is open and honest.
- Destructive behaviour whilst you are out. If you come home and find a few tissues shredded this is probably normal doggy behaviour. If the stuffing has been ripped out of your new sofa.. it’s probably not.
- “Velcro dog” is a dog who is glued to you constantly – following you to every part of the house, when you sit down, sitting on your lap or on your foot. It’s normal for dogs to want to be around us, as long as they are also calm when alone.
Sydney Animal Hospitals can help you and your pets during this time, our Vets can help with separation anxiety by giving behaviour advice, suggesting calming pheromone products, diets or other non-drug treatments, and in some cases prescribing behavioural medication. See more on Separation Anxiety from our Dr Belinda click here
Also this is a good time to address any new pet health concerns that you have noticed during the lockdown period and also any longstanding health concerns you may have.
The next phase in our lives after Covid-19 is starting, applying some simple strategies and recognising when things are not going well will make this a smooth transition for you and your pets.
If you have any concerns please do not hesitate to contact your local Sydney Animal Hospital;
Newtown (02) 9519 4111
69-73 Erskineville Road Erskineville
Inner West (02) 9516 1466
1A Northumberland Ave Stanmore
Norwest (02) 8883 0411
Unit 8, 1-3 Celebration Dr Bella Vista
Kellyville (02) 8883 0533
106 Windsor Rd Kellyville
Newport (02) 9997 4609
1 Palm Rd Newport
Avalon (02) 9918 0833
710 Barrenjoey Rd Avalon Beach