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For those of us who have had the luxury of either being furloughed or been in a position to work from home, for the duration of lockdown, there have been some unexpected joys. Aside from the stress, uncertainty and boredom, this period has given us the chance to think deeply about things, ruminate and consider.
As well as that, it has given our pets full, uninhibited access to us. Dogs are very sociable animals: they get anxious and lonely if they are left for too long by themselves, and they really do thrive off our love and attention.
Over the period of lockdown, our dogs will have been jumping for joy: not only did they get full access to their human, but said human was a lot less busy than normal. Now, however, restrictions are lifting, work is resuming and furlough is ending.
This will understandably be a tough time for your dog. They had most likely just gotten used to having you around, and now will have to get used to not seeing as much of you. Here are some tips on how to make the transition easiest and least stressful for the both of you.
First and most importantly, do not leave your adult dog alone for more than six hours, or two hours if it is a puppy or senior. If you are at work for longer than that, you should organise for a dog walker, friend or neighbour to come to your house and either feed, play or walk with it. This is a necessary part of dog ownership, and if you are considering bringing one into your family, you must take the level of commitment required into consideration first.
Preparing to leave your dog at home:
If your dog has become used to being around you all the time, it is more likely to suffer from separation anxiety from being alone. You can actually help your dog out by designating a special part of the house that is their safe space.
Leave your dog in this comfortable space while you are out, and it will be more likely to relax, in your absence. Otherwise, they may wander around the house, looking for you, and potentially cause damage. As your dog becomes more accustomed to being left in the house alone, you can open up their access more.
Before you leave the house, it can be helpful to walk your dog to tire them out. Take them with you on your morning run, or to the shops. This will mean that they burn off some of that morning energy and may sleep a while
While your dog is home alone:
Give your dog an old shirt, and wrap it around a favourite cuddly toy. Having access to your scent can be of great comfort to your dog and will help reduce anxiety and loneliness if your dog is particularly averse to being alone. This is more for puppies than adult dogs, but it works for senior dogs too.
Some constant low-level chatter is useful for dogs as it fills the silence. In the same way that having the television on in the background can help people deal with loneliness, the radio has a calming influence on your dog. Either stick on a radio channel or a playlist for your dog.
Food dispensing toys, such as Kong, may help to keep your dog occupied and entertained while you are gone. They provide a mentally stimulating outlet with rewards for your dog to play with and may reduce the boredom and resulting destruction that could occur while you are out of the house.
When you are home
It is tempting to feed your dog some delicious natural dog treats the moment you walk through the door, but most likely, it has spent the entire day in a state of inactivity. You should play with your dog in the garden, to let it stretch its legs and burn off some of the energy, and treat it later.
You should also use this as an opportunity to normalise the fact that you will be leaving the house and coming back in more frequently. This means you should try not to make a huge fuss over your dog as you walk in. Be casual, and show your dog that returning home is not a huge ceremony or celebration, but just a usual part of the routine.
As your dog becomes accustomed to the everyday routine of you leaving and coming back, their anxiety will reduce.
Make sure that the time you do spend with your dog is enriching and enjoyable for you both. Your dog is less likely to feel sad and neglected by you going to work if you make an effort to play with and walk them when you’re there. Your work schedule will become easier to accept if you show your dog you care.
Returning to work is always going to be a difficult time, as it is, yet again, an adjustment to the new normal. Reduce the impact this has on both you and your dog by being proactive about how you leave them, and what you do with them when you are around.