Tips for returning to work and caring for your pet

As much of the workforce returns to in-person business, the thought of changes to our routines can be overwhelming. Little did you know, your pet might be experiencing the same anxiety. 

In fact, your dog pays close attention to your body language and can mimic your emotional state based on your body language. This is why when we’re sad, sometimes our dogs get anxious, and when we’re excited, it’s easy for our dog to empathize too. This means that preparing your dog for your new work schedule is just as important to his mental and physical health as your preparation is to you.

Unlike us, our dogs can’t talk about their anxiety, nor can they communicate their needs most of the time. That means it’s up to us as pet owners to pay close attention to the needs of our pets, as well as their triggers and anxiety responses. It’s also up to us to plan our pets’ accommodations ahead of schedule, especially when introducing a new dog-walker or pet-sitter to their schedule.  

Here are some of our tips for preparing your pooch for your return to the workforce.

Preparing To Return To Work

Preparation is key when training your pup for their new daily routine. This is especially true if your pet has a history of separation anxiety and you want to make this a smooth transition for both of you.  

Practicing the new routine is important for your pet, and doesn’t have to be a full-on reenactment of your upcoming schedule. Start by practicing the leaving part of your morning routine, then gradually increasing the time your dog stays home alone. Using long-lasting treats and making sure your pet has what he or she needs throughout the day are great ways to ensure an easy transition.

Paying attention to your pet’s anxiety responses can help you correct any destructive behaviors associated with separation anxiety. Remember that your pet will read and react to your own anxiety as you prepare for work in the mornings, so consistency in your own routine is just as important. You 

Making a happy home for your pet means creating a safe, quiet space for your pet to get comfortable throughout the day. Most importantly, make sure your pet has enough fresh water and a safe space to sleep or relax. Consider your dog’s feeding and exercise schedule, and what accommodations they might need for those. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog has special dietary or medical needs throughout the day.

When It’s Time To Leave

Regular schedules help keep pets calm in a predictable world where they know their needs will be met throughout the day. Regular morning walks are especially effective, because they calm and soothe your pet while giving them the mental and physical stimulation they need to relax throughout the day. Easing into it by practicing the morning routine will help your pet adjust.

Physical exercise makes tired pups less likely to experience anxiety after you leave. Check out our recent blog post on the importance of physical exercise for your pet.

Long-lasting treats are another great trick for keeping your dog entertained once you’re gone. Automatic feeders can help automate meal schedules and keep your furry friend fed throughout the day.

Remember to make a low-key exit when you’re headed to work. Don’t get too excited or make a big deal out of leaving for the day, because it could confuse your dog about what’s about to happen, or drive up their energy levels just as you’re about to leave. Calmly follow the same routine when you head out the door, and do the same when you come home after work. 

Pre-arranging doggie day care for your transition back to work, or hiring a pet walking service might help your little buddy feel less lonely and less anxious throughout the day. This is especially beneficial for high-energy pups. Introducing your pet to the pet-sitter or dog-walker before you officially return to work can make the process even more seamless.

Addressing Anxiety

Dogs are creatures of routine, and for some, your back-to-work schedule might be a difficult transition. It’s important to prioritize animal welfare and to be vigilant of signs of stress in your pet when you return to work. Concerns about behavior might mean that your transition was too abrupt, your dog’s physical and mental needs are not being met, or your dog requires more human interaction. Occasionally, behavioral training or companion animals might be required to help your dog cope with the stress of transitioning.

Common body language signs of distress in your dog might include:

  • Increased panting
  • Increased vocalization
  • Increased licking or drooling
  • Pacing
  • Nervous scratching 
  • Tucked tail
  • Erratic eye movement 
  • Skittishness
  • Destructive chewing
  • Urinating inside when housebroken
  • Hiding, or increased need for attention

Anxiety becomes a major issue in dogs if they begin showing aggressive behavior, or if they begin endangering themselves or others. Dogs that frequently run away can put themselves in danger, especially if you live in a high-traffic area. Dogs that growl or bare their teeth when approached by familiar people may need behavioral modification as prescribed by your veterinarian or pet-training expert.

Lots of mental and physical stimulation when you’re able to provide it will help your dog. If your dog is showing any of the above mentioned signs of stress, examine the regularity in your schedule. Your dog can’t speak to you or communicate their needs to you. Make sure you’re not only providing the food, shelter, and safety that they need, but the mental stimulation and physical activity they need as well.

When There’s a Bump In the Road

Talk to your veterinarian about behavior modification exercises or independence training when you recognize any of the more serious symptoms mentioned above. If you’re unable to remedy the other behaviors associated with your pet’s anxiety, you might talk to a vet as well. Getting to know your dog’s unique language of stress is crucial in understanding his mental and physical state. 

Often, vets and trainers will recommend more physical exertion for your dog throughout the day in order to manage stress. If you’re unable to offer your dog a consistent exercise schedule throughout the day, dog-walking services are a convenient way to meet your dog’s needs. Doggy day care services can help minimize destructive behavior and manage stress. Pet-sitting services are great for dogs who prefer not to leave the home, or prefer not to interact with other dogs.

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