Reducing Pet Stress During a Return to Work
With the end of lockdown finally in sight and the hope of some form of normality returning, many of us are preparing to go back to work on a regular basis. As we try to get used to our new routines, different surroundings and increased stress levels, our pets are experiencing the same anxieties as they face life after lockdown without their owners.
Whether you are a life-long pet owner or have recently acquired a companion, the past few months will no doubt have brought you closer than ever. For dogs in particular, it can be highly distressing to go from continual company to being home alone, especially with no other pets around.
Separation anxiety is a term often used to describe human behaviour following the loss or departure of a loved one, but it can equally be experienced by animals. After an already difficult year, going back to work can be an emotional time for everyone involved. However, with the right steps in place, you can help to reduce the negative effects and ensure your pet remains well cared for.
Recognising the Signs
When animals are separated from their owners, feelings of confusion, fear, loneliness and distress can be displayed in several ways including destructive behaviour, noise, toileting and pacing, though sometimes there will be no obvious signs. The RSPCA estimate that eight out of ten dogs will experience separation anxiety but only half of these will show symptoms.
Most animals, especially dogs, are sociable and enjoy being with humans. Younger pets who have not had much time alone will be more likely to show signs of separation anxiety, so it is worthwhile spending time ahead of your return to work to help your companion get used to being on their own.
The first fifteen minutes of separation are the most distressing, so start with short periods. Leave your pet in a room where they feel comfortable and safe with bedding, food and water, and their favourite toys. Use the same space each time they are left alone so that they begin to associate this area with your absence.
Take your pet for a walk or play with them before you leave to help them feel calm and sleepy. Also make sure they have been to the toilet and have eaten something. When coming home, keep your entrance quiet and understated. If they have misbehaved – for example, if they have chewed furniture or gone to the toilet – avoid getting angry as this will only cause further anxiety.
Self-Care for Owners
Of course, this is an equally upsetting time for pet owners, too. It is important to create a suitable work-life balance and make the most of your time at home with your companion. Look for alternative walking routes, buy a few new toys, take photos or videos to share with loved ones, and enjoy the time spent making new memories with your pet.