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Back to work! But what about Toto?

Published on March 8th 2022

We've all seen and heard it ad nauseam: dog adoptions took off during the pandemic. But now that life is slowly returning to normal and many companies are calling their employees back to work, those dogs that were used to spending most of their time in your presence are suddenly lonely and confused... (while some cats are probably planning a monster party!)

How can you prepare for your return to work to ensure that Fido will adapt to it? Here are a few tips to help you do just that!

  1. It's a case-by-case basis.
    First, it is important to recognize that the approach and reaction will be different from one dog to another, and from one human to another! Some dogs already used to spend time alone at home before the pandemic may adjust more easily. While the famous #COVIDpuppies born and adopted in the past year may be more anxious.

    Be patient with your furry friend, and with yourself! You may be the one with the most separation anxiety at first!

  2. Long live routine.
    Humans don't always like routine, but our furry companions do! A predictable routine will give your pooch a sense of confidence, and this comfort may help thwart unwanted behaviors.

    Don't wait until you return to work to adjust your schedule and routine. Adapt your home routine gradually to what the routine will be when you return to work. Apply the same habits for meals, playtime, walks, etc. that you expect to have when you return to the office.

    And when you are home, maximize your time and interaction with Toto. A good walk before you leave in the morning or games that stimulate both body and mind will help your dog calm down when you are not at home.

  3. Build-in more absences gradually.
    If you've spent every minute of every day for the past year with Fido by your side, it's time to start practicing your absences. Do it gradually, starting with small durations. Analyze and work to desensitize the cues that trigger anxiety in your furry friend, such as the door opening or the sound of your keys. Consider leaving safe interactive toys or treats that signal to your dog that your absence is associated with good things for him.

    Another tool that may prove beneficial if your dog responds well to it is using a training crate. Again, be sure to gradually incorporate this into your routine so that it remains a positive experience for your dog. Dog trainers can also help you with this.

  4. You are not alone.
    If you have an unpredictable work schedule or work long hours, consider doing the research now for alternative resources. For example, a dog walker who will take Fido out mid-day, or a doggie daycare that will keep your pooch active all day and make him forget about your absence.

    If you detect separation anxiety disorder in your dog and gradual work at home isn't working, turn to professionals. A certified dog trainer can help you determine the sources of the anxiety and give you exercises or tips to help your dog build his confidence. He or she will also be able to refer you to a veterinary behaviorist if the problems are significant and may require more personalized follow-up.

  5. Take your time but do it fast!
    Like many humans, dogs are not keen on change, and you may need to plan for a long transition period that can last from a few weeks to a few months. Give yourselves time to make it a positive experience and not create new sources of stress.

    The sooner you start planning and working on the adjustment, the happier you and your pet will be!

Have you started your return to the office? Do you have more tips you’d want to share with our readers? Share them on our social media posts!


Some additional reads (not affiliated with the SPCA de l’Outaouais):