Life after lockdown (not for you – for your dog!)

Dog owner? COVID-19 lockdowns are disappearing as quickly as they emerged, which means many of us are slowly preparing for an inevitable return to work. And, while going back to the office might be adjustment for you, it’s also a big adjustment for your dog. HerDog owner? With life slowly returning to normal after COVID-19 restrictions, many of us are starting to prepare for the inevitable return to work. And, while going back to the office might be adjustment for you, it’s also a big adjustment for your dog. Here are tips to prepare your furry friend(s) for life after lockdown. e are tips to prepare your furry friend(s) for life after lockdown.

If you’ve been working from home since March, you could forgive your dog for thinking that they’ve died and gone to heaven – one that’s filled with cuddles, treats and entire months at home with their beloved humans. So, as lockdowns start to lift and workplaces call their employees back in, it’s important to prepare your beloved pooch for your departure.

The good news? According to Dr Tanya Carter, veterinarian and owner of the Haberfield Veterinary Hospital, there are lots of things you can do to minimise the impact on your pets – and the earlier you start, the easier it will be.

Prepare for your departure

If you’re currently working from home, start putting a little bit of distance between you and your pooch during the day. A bit of time apart can help them get used to the idea that you won’t always be around.

“If you’re still working from home, set yourself up in another room for a while and close the door so you’re not with your dog the whole time,” says Tanya.

When you go out, leave a treat for your dog – it’s a great way to show them that your absence = good news for them. Tanya suggests leaving a nice toy to play with, perhaps with a bit of peanut butter on it to maximise the happy vibes. 

It’s also important to ensure that your home (and yard, if you have one) have been set up to nurture your dog while you’re gone. A comfortable space stocked with clean food and water bowls, beloved toys and a comfy bed is a good start.

Dogs love routine, so making sure you feed them and walk them at the same time every day can provide a sense of structure. And when it comes to going for walks, tire them out.

“A tired dog is one that’s less likely to be distressed when you go out,” Tanya says.

If you can afford it, book in some sessions with a dog walker for the days you’re not at home – it’s a great way to keep your dog active and socialised.

Lead with kindness

How your dog reacts to your departure depends on their temperament, Tanya says. Dogs that are prone to separation anxiety are more likely to panic when it comes time for you to leave.

Excessive barking or exhibiting escape-like behaviours – like scratching at the door – are common if your pup is upset. You need to address these issues, but make sure you do it gently.

“Use positive reinforcement and rewards-based training to modify behaviour,” Tanya says.

“The things I would avoid, for which there is little evidence, are pheromone sprays, collars for anxiety or behaviour-modifying collars that use citronella or other nontoxic substances. These are not recommended by the Australian Veterinary Association.”

When in doubt, seek advice

If you’re really concerned about your dog’s ability to cope, consider making an appointment with your vet. They’ll talk you through some techniques and tools to manage your dog’s anxiety, but they’ve also got some other tricks up their sleeve if you’re having no success.

“If you’ve got a dog that’s very distressed already and you think it’s going to be even more distressed when you go back to work, you should have a chat to your vet about the things you should do to alleviate that,” Tanya says.

“If they’re really, really distressed then your vet might resort to some sort of medication for your dog and if owners need extra help we suggest that they contact a Delta-accredited dog trainer or a vet who has some extra expertise in animal behaviour.”

Own a cat?

Our feline friends are delightfully independent, but even they can get a bit of anxiety when their routine changes and their beloved humans go back to work. In addition to the above, it’s important that you leave them plenty of ways to work off that excess energy and ways to avoid them going postal on your furniture.

Make sure you spend time playing with you fur-ever friends before or after work to help them work off some of that extra energy that can be caused by the anxiety of a change in routine.

Leave a few well hidden treats around the place, or toys that make your cat work for their treat. Don’t forget to consult with your Vet if you’re ever unsure of what to do.

The Haberfield Veterinary Hospital is open 7 days a week at 55 Ramsay Street Haberfield.