Over a year has passed since the initial lock-down was implemented to help contain the spread of COVID-19. Most people across the globe had limited access to others during this time, and pet ownership and adoptions increased almost everywhere. Even for those that were already pet owners, the bond between pet owners and their pets increased during this difficult time. 

Vaccines are rolling out at a fast pace, meaning that restrictions are gradually being lifted. As we prepare to return to the office, we can’t help feeling concerned about how being away from home will affect our pets. 

Pets thrive on routine and theirs changed as dramatically as yours. They have gotten used to having you around at home all day. There is no doubt that initially, your pet will be shocked not to have you around. The adjustment curve will be bigger for any new pets you acquired or adopted over the last year. 

Here is a short guide to help you prepare your pets for your return to work. The earlier you prepare them the easier the transition is!

How to prepare your dog for your absence?

The best way to prepare your dog for your absence is to start making gradual changes to its routine for a few weeks before you return to work. Dogs adapt easily to changes, but when these are sprung on them at short notice, they can become anxious and suffer from separation related problems.

Often, working from home means a complete change of routine for you, and this also changes the routine of your beloved dog. Perhaps you were getting out of bed later in the morning because you didn’t have to worry about the commute or dropping the kids off at school. That means you have also probably adjusted your dog’s feeding, walking, and playing routine.

Without a doubt, your dog has probably enjoyed having you around all day. Dogs left alone for too long tend to struggle because they are social animals. Remember if you have been at home all this time, your dog will struggle with the changes your return to work will bring. 

1) Create a new routine

The whole idea is to get your dog used to the way things will be once you are back at work. This includes your dog’s feeding and walking time, especially if you changed these during the lockdown. To prevent frustration and anxiety, start with gradual changes to your dog’s daily schedule.  

  • Start well before it is time to return to work.
  • Make sure to slowly ease into the feeding and walking adjustments that will match your working hours. 
  • Changing your dog’s feeding place can help to alleviate separation anxiety. Start feeding your dog somewhere away from you. This is a trick to teach your dog that it can still enjoy his feed, even if he is separated from you. 
  • This new routine may appear strange for your dog at first, but if it was a routine from before the lockdown, your dog will soon re-adapt to it. Even a new dog will quickly learn to accept the new routine. 
  • Even if you did go out a bit during the lockdown, your dog probably got used to many more hours of interaction with you. Prepare him for less time together – decrease the attention you give him and increase the time he spends alone. 

2) Prepare your pet for longer alone time

Start preparing your dog by not playing with him every time he seeks attention. However, if you completely ignore your dog, you will confuse him. Instead, offer him something better to do while you carry on doing something else. This can be a little treat or a new toy. 

  • Give your dog clear signals that can help it understand when you are too busy to interact or when you have some time to play. Offer your dog interactive or chew toys during your “busy time.” 
  • Start easing your interaction time to the hours you will be available once you are back at work. 
  • Another thing you can do is to gradually start leaving the house for longer every day, gradually building up your absent time to the hours you will be away at work. Most dogs will ease well into your longer absences, but if you notice any signs of distress, consult a qualified dog behavior specialist.  

3) Getting used to a new walking routine

  • If you are going to rely on the services of a dog walker once again, you will need to reintroduce them. Your dog might initially be very apprehensive or super excited, so be prepared to join them the first few times to offer your dog support. 
  • If you adopted a dog during the lockdown, you will need to support him the first few times he goes out with the new dog walker, especially if you were the only person walking him during the lockdown. 

4) Do you need to retrain your dog?

Re-training your dog will make your departure less stressful. Start training your dog with gradual changes. Reward-based training gives the best results. Offer small treats and interesting pet toys to reduce stress and distract your pet while you are away. 

If you stopped crate training during the lockdown or have never tried it, start it gradually. Crate training is invaluable in teaching your dog to happily accept alone time. 

5) Relieve stress with exercise

Increase the amount of time you exercise your dog in the morning before leaving for work. This will rid your dog of excess energy, making him so tired that he will spend the rest of the day sleeping instead of being anxious. 

6) Daycare for your dog

Pet daycare may be the best solution for your dog if you work long hours. Here he can socialize and play in a safe environment, forgetting that you are now away from him for long hours. There are concerns about COVID-19 and pets, so make sure the daycare you choose is taking all the necessary safety precautions. 

How to prepare your cat for your absence?

Each cat has an individual personality. Unlike dogs, who thrive on attention from their owners, not all cats enjoy human companionship. Some cats may have enjoyed spending so much time with their owners during the lockdown, while others may have preferred finding a quiet spot.

Whichever kind of cat you have, you still need to know that they are sensitive to any changes in their routine which can lead to stress once you return to work. Therefore, it is important to make gradual changes to your cat’s routine to help it adjust. 

1) Interaction time

Start reducing the amount of interaction you have with your cat gradually. This will help prepare it for your long absence during the day. Reduced interaction time often causes frustration and stress in cats. If your cat is already happy with less interaction, adjust the hours you interact with it to match your working hours. 

2) Take note of your cat’s behavior

Watch your cat’s behavior before and once you return to work, this will help you learn a lot about what it likes and how it is feeling. Once you get back to work, your observations will help you understand any changes in your cat’s behavior. 

If your cat seeks more interaction and plays more roughly with you, it could be frustrated and bored. Offer it the playtime and interaction it wants. Then again, if it is quiet, withdrawn, or more irritable, your cat could be stressed and could want some quiet time in a quiet space. Leave your cat alone, it will come to you in its own time.

Once you do go back to work, make sure to spend quality time with your pet in the morning before leaving, and when you return. Play with it and take it through its favorite grooming routine. 

3) Gradually make the changes to your cat’s routine

There are various steps you can take to ensure you prepare your cat properly for your return to work.

  • All changes in your cat’s routine must be introduced gradually until they match your working hours – including your cat’s feeding and its playtime.  
  • Offer your cat interesting hiding places and some elevated resting places. These areas help your cat to relieve stress since they provide a safe place to hide when it’s feeling anxious. 
  • Don’t add to your cat’s stress by over handling it or trying to comfort it, especially if it doesn’t want to. If you pick your cat up or follow it when it’s already stressed, you make it more anxious. Let your cat choose when to come to you for comfort. 
  • While you are at work, help to alleviate boredom by providing your cat with interesting toys, puzzle feeders, and scratching posts. This is especially necessary if your cat is kept indoors. 
  • You will be a lot busier after the lockdown, but make sure you offer your cat some quality time every day. 

4) Following your cats’ cues

As we said earlier, dogs are a social species, whereas cats mostly thrive in small family groups, often not minding a solitary life. Therefore, cats sometimes seem standoffish and very independent, often ignoring their human owners.   

Even if your cat is an independent character, it can still get stressed once you return to work. Make the transition as stress-free and smooth as possible. Once you do go back to work, you’ll probably be very excited to return to your cat after a long day. 

Try to not get over-excited as you greet your cat after a day away. Keep calm, and wait for cues from it to see if it feels like playing or being alone. If your cat approaches you with its tail held up and pointed, then it feels like getting some attention. If your cat is hiding on your return home, it will come out when it’s ready to play. 

Final take

These are the simple steps to follow as you help your pets adjust to your longer absences. With both cats and dogs, it is vital to make gradual changes to their new routine. 

Grooming continues to play an important role in the lives of your pets, contributing to their well-being and health. If you were grooming your pets yourself during the lockdown, you may find that you don’t have the time to groom once you are back at work. 

Connect with a local pet groomer, and make an appointment for your pet’s grooming session today. Your pet will love you for it!