By Nancy Frensley, Berkeley Humane Training Manager
Earlier this year, national publications issued news reports that pets adopted during pandemic closures were being returned to shelters in large numbers as people returned to their jobs – despite no evidence to support these claims. Since the very idea that people would just give up a new member of their family so easily was disturbing to pet lovers, we can all rejoice that people are in fact holding onto their furry friends.
There is also much concern among dog owners/guardians that as they are required to return to the workplace, their dogs who will now be left home alone will find the experience traumatizing. In particular, the possible concerning behaviors include becoming more anxious, despondent and otherwise changed in some negative way when much of their daily contact and enrichment stops. It is not only the pets that could be affected with these changes, but their faithful, loving human family as well.
It’s really important to recognize that both ends of the leash can be impacted by sudden changes in the usual routine. Dogs and cats have been a joy and a lifeline through more than a year of being home most of the time.
Perhaps the most important thing to know is that most pets are going to be just fine being home without you in a safe environment. They will nap and take it easy. However, to ensure the best possible transition, here are some ways you and your pet can get ready for this change:
- Plan ahead if possible. Project what your new schedule might look like and duplicate what parts of it you can, starting as soon as possible before the transition. Walks and feeding times should be adjusted to the new times so that the most enjoyable routines are already set.
- Watch your dog. Dogs will give you the clues you need to fulfill their needs. As you begin preparation for leaving, note what you do and watch your dog for signs that predict you are leaving. What does your dog do? The body will language will tell all.
- Start mixing up your departure routine and fake some parts of it every day to make you less predictable. Leave for shorter periods of time, and then be gone for longer to see how your pet does in your absence.
- Use some technology. Monitor what your dog does when you are gone on a security camera or webcam. Some of these will let you communicate with your dog from outside.
- Enrich the environment. There are many interactive feeding and play toys on the market. Try some of them and teach your dog a hunting game you can send them on as you leave.
- If your dog is exhibiting any concerning issues around urination or eating, make sure you consult your veterinarian.
But what about you? If you set up and rehearse departure routines along with leaving for progressively longer periods of time, you will be able to leave for work with confidence and enjoy your dog in a whole new way. It’s not ending, it’s just changing.
Click here for information about Nancy Frensley’s Make a Dog’s Day webinar on separation.