As the holiday season draws to a close, it’s back to work and school for many. After a long, relaxing break, this adjustment can be challenging, not only for you, but for your beloved pet too! Think about it – with an endless supply of fun, love and attention over the holidays, soon they’ll be left on their own for a longer stretch of time, or for those working from home, you are now unable to give them as much attention as before. Some may experience separation anxiety, become stressed or just get very bored.
To make this transition as smooth as possible for both you and your beloved pet, we spoke to certified dog behaviourist and trainer Ludovica Barnato for some advice. Below are her top tips to help prepare your pet for your return to work. We thank Ludovica for sharing her expertise with us.
1. Go back to your old routine
During the holidays, the structure and routine that work and school imposes on the family tends to go out of the window. Perhaps you spent more time together as a family, went to bed late at night, slept in, or enjoyed a late breakfast. Either way, your pet has likely become used to this flexible routine, and they will need your help to return to your older one. Therefore, before heading back to work, it’s a good idea to set fixed times for your pet’s play, exercise, walking and meals to ease them back into your work routine. These timings should be similar to what they can expect on your workdays.
2. Start leaving your home more frequently
No matter how hard it might be (for you and your pet), you have to start leaving your pet alone to prepare them for your absence. You can start small by leaving your home for a short period of time. Then, gradually increase the duration of your departures. This way, you can slowly reintroduce them to the idea of being left alone and help them understand that you will always come back. It’s important to continuously monitor your pet’s behaviour for this exercise. For instance, if you notice any signs of stress when you leave, then shorten the length of your absence accordingly.
3. Keep them busy
Prevent your pet from getting bored while you are at work by leaving out some fun activities. If you have a dog, treat stuffing toys like these ones by Kong and Rogz, and treat dispensing toys like this one by GiGwi are great, as they encourage dogs to use some of their problem-solving skills as they try to retrieve the tasty snack inside. For cats, toys such as this Zee.cat Feather Teaser or this All For Paws Interactive Lazer Beam are great for keeping your cat stimulated and entertained on their own.
4. Create a comforting space of their own
Consider setting up a designated space in your home for your pet before you go back to work. This can consist of a bed and blanket, their favourite cuddle or chew toy for dogs, or a scratch post for cats. This can help provide some much-needed comfort and safety while you’re away. You can start encouraging your pet to stay there and not follow you with some toys and treats. This way, they’ll gradually learn that being separated from you can be a pleasurable experience. Leaving the television or radio on low when you leave your home is also a good idea, as many pets find the background noise comforting compared to complete silence.
5. Provide daily exercise
Life might become a lot busier when you return to work, but it’s important to continue to provide your pet with opportunities for daily exercise and play. Perhaps you can exercise your pet before you leave home for work, as this can help keep them relaxed during the day while you’re out. Or you can provide some exercise after work, which will help them get rid of the excess energy they’ve built up during the day, as well as ensure a good night's sleep. Either way, physical exercise helps to release pent-up energy, which can in turn keep your pet calm and relaxed while you’re at work.
6. Consider pet daycare or pet setting
If you don't want to leave your pet at home alone all day, then a pet daycare is a great option. These provide your pet with opportunities for socialisation, exercise, and lots of play. If your pet isn’t comfortable at daycare, consider a reputable pet sitter and/ or dog walker who can provide your pet with one-on-one attention and exercise while you’re at work.
7. Asks the experts for help
Being away from your pet is bound to be a difficult transition for you both, so be patient as you adjust them to your work routine. However, if you notice any signs of excessive stress or anxiety, such as excessive shaking, pacing, chewing, or other destructive forms of behaviour, it’s best to reach out to your veterinarian or an accredited animal behaviourist who can help.
We would like to extend our thanks to Ludovica Barnato for sharing her expertise with us to put together this article. We hope you have found this helpful.
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