Preparing your pet for a return to work


If, like us you have spent the last few months working from home, there have been real benefits for your pets.

We’ve had a chance to spend more time together, there may have been longer, more regular walks, time for extra fuss and attention, the opportunity to learn some new tricks and play games and more tummy tickles than usual.

When things have got on top of us, our pets have been there for therapeutic snuggles. 

Unpalatable truths. Now there is an unpalatable truth to share with them; things are going to change and for many pets, this could cause new stress and disorders related to separation anxiety. As we found out, this was true for us.

Barking Bags

Our experience – confessions from a stressed dog owner. Our work takes us around the country, attending dog shows, festivals and country fairs and we often take our dog, Maisie, with us.

It means we are used to finding dog-friendly accommodation and places to eat.  Maisie is used to sleeping in her crate and seems to enjoy travelling just as much as we do so we expected to return to normal when lockdown began to ease.

In late August we had intended to be at Framlingham County Fair but when the event was cancelled, we thought we would keep our hotel booking and enjoy some walks in the beautiful, Suffolk countryside.

We packed all Maisie’s usual things, checked the hotel was still pet friendly and headed off. The hotel was great. They gave us a key to our room and Maisie a very warm welcome with her own goodie bag, complete with treats, poo bags and information on local walks.

Maisie's Goodie Bag:

We went to the room, put up the crate and headed off for a walk and fish and chips. All seemed normal until we went to bed. Maisie trotted into her crate as always and we put over the covers. We made plans for the next day and settled down to sleep. And then it began…

For the next 8 hours on and off throughout the night, we heard Maisie scratching to get out of the crate. Ordinarily, she isn’t allowed in our bedroom but when we are on holiday, she is regularly in our hotel room and we have never had a problem.

Now she was presenting as an anxious and demanding dog and we had to resist the temptation to give in to her demands. Luckily, she wasn’t whining or barking so although it was a pain for us it wasn’t disturbing the guests.

The next morning, she was taken for a long walk before breakfast and we returned her to the room to rest in the crate while we had breakfast. Well…that was the plan. Maisie had different ideas.

No sooner had we left than she started to whimper, and the whimper turned into barking. Something we simply couldn’t ignore. It meant that we had to eat breakfast in shifts. I realized that she has become my Velcro dog and wants me in her vision constantly.

For now, she had won, but we know that things have to change if we are going to survive the new norm so we returned home with a commitment to re-establish a new routine before things get out of hand.

For now, we are consulting on-line experts, but we wouldn’t hesitate to get in help from a behaviourist if we need it. We worked with an incredible behavioralist when we had Maisie as a puppy and her advice saved us from being well-meaning but ill-advised pet owners.

So what are the experts saying? They have different strategies, but they all agree that to do nothing is not an option and that even small changes can make a difference and help your pets adapt to their changing world.

Some suggest the importance of easing your pet into the routine now that will be in place once you return to work.

  • Maisie is no longer allowed in the home ‘office’ and is learning that she can’t have our undivided attention
  • We’ve reintroduced routine – meal times, bad times and downtime to help establish a schedule they understand
  • We are leaving her alone more frequently, even if it’s just for half an hour, helping her to trust that we will return
  • We are leaving her with enrichment toys, a comfort blanket and treat puzzles to make the separation easier.
  • If you’ve got to make a work call why not take it in your car, outside or in a room when your pets are not permitted to enter
  • Try returning to the old walk routines – the same times you did them before lockdown
  • Get your dog use to the dog walker again or ask someone else to exercise your dog
  • We are going to feed her in the kitchen, away from us, while we eat in the dining room. That way, she learns that being away from us can be a pleasure.
  • We are trying to remind ourselves to resist the temptation not to make a big fuss of her before we leave and when we return.
  • We are learning to give her attention when she is calm not when she is demanding attention
  • For those of you with technical knowhow, there are a number of technical solutions on the market, from interactive spy cameras that allow you to interact with your pup from a distance, to sophisticated ways for you dispense treats.

If all else fails and you continue to see signs of stress or complaints from neighbours about constant whining or barking, professional help is always available.

Don’t be embarrassed to seek help. We did - and believe me, it was money well spent.