As our world slowly begins to return to a state of normalcy, many people are returning to the workplace. What this means for our pets is a change in their routine which can sometimes be unsettling. Our pets, just like many people, are creatures of habit.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has suggested a variety of steps to help your pet become accustomed to your absence when you return to the office. To begin, implement a consistent routine that will be similar to the one you will follow once you return to your office; wake up at the same time each day, feed and walk your dog, and leave your home. Practice short departures on a daily basis initially, then gradually increase the length of time you are gone to take the anxiety out of your departure. Giving your pet a small treat when you leave will condition them to associate a reward with your leaving. If they are destructive when you are gone, shorten the length of time you are gone and slowly build up to longer periods.
An increase in the amount of physical activity and play time with your pet before you leave can also be helpful. Allow your pet to burn off some energy, and they will perhaps be more relaxed after you leave. Some pets need a distraction while you are gone to occupy them. Long-lasting treats, chew toys and food puzzles can keep them engaged and relieve anxiety. Giving your pet access to a “safe place” can also provide them comfort. If you had used a crate for your pet previously while you were gone, this may be a good time to reintroduce it. Keeping toys, blankets or other items that comfort them in the crate can make them feel more secure as well. Some pet owners have found that radios, TVs and even a sound machine have provided comfort to their pets during their absence. If you believe your pet would benefit from care during your absence, pet sitters and doggy day care centers would also be an option to consider.
It is important to look for signs of stress in your pet during this period of transition. If your dog is barking excessively or whining, displaying destructive behavior or inappropriately urinating or defecating, they may be suffering from separation anxiety. Persistent behavior that does not change despite your best efforts should be discussed with your primary veterinarian or in difficult cases a veterinary behaviorist. These professionals can recommend behavioral modifications and possibly medical treatment.
As we adjust to change, so will our pets. Patience and positive reinforcement along with maintaining a routine will benefit both the pets and people in our lives.
The information in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of the advice of a veterinarian.
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