Help your pet adjust when you go back to work after lockdown
As some return to work, we're issuing advice to dog owners to help their pets adjust to the change...
For many of us, life has changed significantly during the COVID-19 lockdown - and it's also changed for our dogs. When the restrictions are lifted, we will have to adjust again to returning to our normal routines - and our pets will too.
Top tips for preparing your dog
Gradually change the timings of your dog's routine to the way they will eventually be. If the time you feed or walk your dog has changed due to lockdown then slowly start to change it back to how it was before. Doing this can prevent your dog from experiencing frustration and anxiety when their daily schedule suddenly doesn't match what they've come to expect.
Begin to gradually return your dog's routine to normal before it has to change. Consider the amount of walks, location and times that are part of your dog's normal routine. Gradually adjust your walks to match this. Our dogs may not be left alone at all during lockdown or for brief intervals only, and they're probably getting much more attention and interaction. But if this is likely to change when you go back to work then you need to prepare them for that. Begin to gradually decrease the amount of attention you give your dog, and increase the time they spend on their own. This may include not playing with your dog every time they ask or not stroking them everytime they nudge you. Don't completely ignore your dog as this may confuse them, but do give them something better to do like a comfy bed to lay on or a tasty chew to settle with.
Give them a routine as close as possible to the one they'll experience when restrictions are lifted. Help your dog spend more time alone by encouraging them to rest in their own bed or keeping them in a separate room while you do something else.
Give your dog clear signals about when they can be involved in interactions and when they need to occupy themselves. Chew toys or interactive toys your dog can use without you can help you to do this.
Try to keep interaction time for when you will be available once your routine is back to normal, for example in the evenings after dinner.
You may also want to think about leaving the house without the dog to help your dog to gradually get used to this part of their routine again. If you need to build up this time for a longer duration or for more frequent absences, think about going to sit in the car to read a book, so that you can leave the house and stay within government guidelines. However, if your dog shows any distress when left alone then pause your plans and seek the support of a qualified behaviourist.
If you are returning to using a dog walker, friend or family member to care for your dog while you are busy they might be very excited or even a little apprehensive having spent time with only you. It can be useful for you to remain home on the first walk or two, just in case your dog needs any extra support from you.
Top tips for preparing your cat
Any changes in routine should be introduced gradually
Ensure your cat has hiding places and elevated resting places which help relieve stress for cats by offering them a safe place to hide
Ensure you aren't over handling your cat to try and comfort them. Being picked up or followed around can add to their stress if this is not their choice
Gradually adjust your routine to what it will be when you return to work i.e. feeding times and frequency, play times
Help prevent boredom whilst you are at work by providing puzzle feeders, toys and scratching posts - this is especially important for indoor cats
Your life may become a lot busier after lockdown but it's important to ensure you still spend quality time with your cat every day