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How to prepare your pets for your return to work

Most pet owners have spent more time than ever with their animal friends over the past couple of months. Now the question is, how will they react when you return to work? Thomas F. Dock, Director of Communications/Public Information Office, Noah’s Animal Hospitals explains how these pets, especially the new ones, msy react to our increased absences as we get “back on track.”

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that each and every one of our pets is an individual and while the following recommendations will be helpful for most owners, not every pet will either need this and not every pet will respond as we might wish.   

A big component to getting your pets prepared for your prolonged absences during the day is to make sure the whole family has a good routine.  Try to set a consistent schedule for meals, bedtime and play/exercise times.  Walk or exercise your pet as if you were already back to work…i.e. at times when you would normally be home. 

Dogs thrive on a routine and anyone who has ever had a cat head-butting them at the break of dawn also understands that our feline friends seem to like a certain amount of consistency as well. Getting the pets adapted to a new routine should start BEFORE you need the new routine to happen. 

Use this time to re-acclimate your current pets to time without you by putting them in their crates/rooms while you go somewhere else in the house, away from their view, for short periods of time. If you have added to your furry family during the stay at home times, this will be a good test to see how that pet is going to respond to your absences. 

In most cases, the potential for issues (such as separation anxiety) will be seen much more often in our dogs that our cats. The brand new additions to our family (fosters or adopted dogs) may still be in their own adjustment period and so understanding their reaction to your absence will be important.  

During their time alone, certain items, such as puzzle toys that dispense treats or kibble or a durable Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter and treats, can be a welcome distraction and provide mental stimulation. Because of the risk of choking, some chew items, especially rawhide, should not be left with unattended pets. 

Many owners report that leaving a radio or TV on with low volume can help ease a pet’s concern about being alone.  As technology continues to improve, “pet nanny cameras” can allow you to remotely check in on your pet and some even have the ability for you to talk to your furry friend and dispense treats! 

Your arrival and departure each day should be low key. Many dogs will mirror our emotional state and keeping things calm at these times will help the pet to understand that this is just part of everyday life.   

For pets who seem to get worked up at departure times, you may need to desensitize them to specific triggers. For example, the sound of keys jangling might be a signal to a pet that you are about to leave. Consider randomly picking up your keys and moving them during the day, but without leaving the house. 

Your veterinarian can be a great resource for finding ways to make sure your pet’s emotional/mental health is being addressed during this time. Even if you can’t make it to the clinic for an exam, many veterinarians are using telemedicine consults through applications like AirVet, to stay in touch and help their patients and clients. 

In some extreme cases, medications may be prescribed. It is important to understand that, by themselves, medications are only partially effective. It will be up to you to work with your veterinarian to provide some behavior modification for your pet in addition to any calming medications or supplements. 

For more about Noah’s Animal Hospital visit their website.