Helping your pet cope with life after lockdown
With lockdown measures easing across the UK, many of us are preparing to go back to work after several months at home. While it’s a positive step forwards, it does mean another change for our pets who have become used to having us around 24 hours a day.
Dogs especially form a very close bond with family members and can be particularly affected by being at home alone. Cats are more independent but can find big changes unsettling.
Thankfully there are some things you can do to make the transition a little easier for your pet and keep anxiety to a minimum.
Tips for helping your pet to cope
Take it slowly
Abrupt changes in routine or environment can be confusing. Just like with a puppy, gradually reintroduce new schedules so they know what to expect and when. If you normally use a dog walker, start with a short meeting and possibly stay close by for the first couple of walks to reacclimatise your dog to spending time with another person.
If mealtimes have moved, begin by shifting these to fit in with your working day so that when the day comes your pooch will already be comfortable with this.
The same goes for walks. Once you are back at work you may not be able to take that lovely lunchtime stroll or even to out for quite as long as you may have done over the lockdown period. Start getting your dog used to a walk before and/or after work to fit in with what you normally do during the working week.
You may need to help your dog readjust to being in the house alone when you go to work. Start by popping out for short periods of time, even as little as 15 minutes, and building it up to longer stretches. You could also encourage them to lie in their bed or do something in another room to get them used to being alone a bit more even when you are at home.
Less play time
Your dog has probably become used to having you close all day, every day, and will need to readjust to entertaining themselves at times. Be clear with your dog about when you are available to play. Gradually decrease the amount of attention you give them. If you have a cat, reduce the amount you are handling them. Ignoring them sometimes won’t do them any harm and will help them get used to not having you around all day.
As you won’t be giving your pet as much attention, help to keep boredom at bay with interactive toys, puzzle feeders or scratching posts for your cat to get busy with. Toys and activities they can enjoy without your involvement are ideal.
Make sure your cat has some good hiding places they can retreat to when they need a bit of security. And make sure your dog has a good comfy bed to relax in. It’s also important to make sure that everyone in the house gives your cat or dog the space to rest when they need to without being disturbed.
Consider using a calmer to help reduce any anxiety your pet might experience. There are some great products available, such as Pet Remedy, as well as some less conventional approaches like calming media for pets.
Try to make sure you still get some quality time with your pet every day once you’ve returned to work.
If you take things slowly, your pets should have no problem readjusting to a normal routine, especially those who were used to being at home alone during the day before lockdown.
However, if you are worried about your pet’s behaviour, try to hold off on immediate plans if you can and speak to an animal behaviourist for advice.