7 Ways to Prepare Your Dogs & Cats for Your Return to the Office
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much of our lives. And for many of us, the biggest change is the fact that we have been able to work from home for over a year.
And nobody is happier about this arrangement than our pets. Cats and dogs alike have been absolutely ecstatic to have their owners at home all day.
However, as vaccines become easily available, many employees are being called back to the office. And before you go back, it’s important to prepare your pets for this big change.
How, exactly, can you prepare them? We’ve prepared a complete guide to help prepare your pets for your return to the office.
Create a safe haven
One of the things that animals have in common with humans is that they have their own “safe spaces.” These are the places where they are most comfortable and where they spend much of their time each day.
If your pet has an existing safe haven, it’s important to make sure they have access to it while you are at work. For example, maybe your pet likes to lounge in a pet bed in your bedroom while you are gone, but you plan on closing the bedroom door while you are at work. In that case, try moving the bed to your home office or to the living room.
If your pet doesn’t already have a safe space, try creating one for them. Dogs sometimes like open crates with blankets on top, while dogs and cats alike love specialty pet beds. Creating a safe space like this will comfort your pets while you are gone and give you peace of mind as you work.
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How to train your dog to let you leave the house drama-free
Dogs will take your return to the office particularly hard. After all, they have had more than a year to get used to you being at home all day. Once you have established a safe haven for your dog such as a pet bed, you can follow these steps to train your dog to let you leave the house drama-free.
- Encourage your dog to go to their bed and stay there in your presence. Reward your dog with a treat for staying in their bed without barking.
- Tell your dog to stay, while you move away. Return and reward.
- Practice this routine, progressively moving farther away for longer periods of time. If your dog barks or moves, don’t reward them (but don’t punish them, either.) Return to step #2.
- Eventually, you want to progress to the point where you can start exiting the room before returning.
- Finally, you want to reach the point where you can go outside and shut the door behind you. Once you reach this point, start increasing the length of time you stay outside before returning.
- When your dog is okay being left alone for an hour, you’ve reached the point where they should be okay left alone while you’re at work.
Practice alone time
It’s important to get your pet used to you leaving the house at a regular time each day. For example, let’s say you begin your morning commute at 7 a.m. Before you have to go back to the office, start leaving the house at that time for short intervals. You could go grab some groceries, jog… anything that gets you out of the house.
While establishing a morning routine is important, it’s also important to let your pets practice being alone at other times. For example, you might decide to take in an evening movie after you are vaccinated. Or you could always have a relaxing lunch or dinner with an old friend.
This practice alone time at different points throughout the day can help your pet ease back into the idea that you won’t be home all the time anymore. And if we’re being honest, it may help you ease back into socializing and interacting with the world after being a hermit in your home for nearly a year and a half!
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Mentally tire them
What do pets and small children have in common? They both like to act out when they are bored!
In particular, dogs are bad about chewing on things when they are bored and frustrated. And one of the simplest ways to solve this issue is to try to stimulate the pooch’s mind before you head to the office.
For example, you can take your dog on a leisurely walk in a nearby area that has plenty of things to smell. Let them take the lead and sniff to their heart’s content for at least 30 minutes. After that, your dog will feel mentally tired out and be able to relax more easily while you are at work.
For cats, give them a play session with a favorite toy such as a toy fishing pole before you leave for work.
Set new eating and drinking habits
One of the biggest adjustments pets have to make when owners return to work concerns food and water. For over a year, your animals have been able to eat and drink whenever they want. And if they run out of food and water, they’ll simply bark or meow at you until you refill everything.
Therefore, it’s important to try to get your pets back to a feeding routine. For example, before you go back to work, try to get your dog or cat used to eating once in the morning and once in the evening. (A bowl of water should be left out each day so pets can drink at any time, to avoid risk of dehydration.)
If your pets need to eat more often, you can also experiment with automatic feeders and smartphone-enhanced feeders. The important thing is that the pet realizes they will no longer have food “on demand!”
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Create a new walk routine for dogs
Just as they have gotten used to eating whenever they want to, your dog has gotten used to going outside whenever they want to. So it can be difficult going back to spending eight hours or more without access to the outside world.
That’s why we recommend walking your dog before you go to work and right after you get back. A walk in the morning will help the dog do their business and tire them out before you go back to work. And a walk after you get home will help them do their business if they’ve been holding anything in while you were at the office.
As a nice side effect, these walks are also great for your own health. And they’ll help you maintain your bond with your dog long after you’ve returned to work.
Record your pets
Let’s be honest: sometimes, pet owners are more anxious about returning to work than the pets themselves. And it can be difficult to concentrate on your job if you’re worried about your animals. In that case, we recommend installing some cameras in your house.
You can buy one (or more) affordable pet cams that allow you to access live footage from your smartphone. And studying this footage will help you discover any signs of anxiety or depression in your animal.
For example, a dog might pace around all day and not be able to settle down. Or they might be constantly reaching for toys. In some cases, a dog may even forgo food and drink to pout by the front door all day!
Seeing this on camera can be heartbreaking. But once you learn how anxious your pet really is, you can take steps to make them happier and content while you are at work.
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