With COVID-19 restrictions looking to be eased in the coming months, how do you ensure that your dog will cope when you head back to work?
Here are some ideas you can apply now to ensure your dog does not have separation anxiety when the times comes for you to leave the house on a full-time basis:
- Try to keep your pre COVID-19 routine – if you are usually gone from 8am to 4pm then walk your dog and feed him before this time or after this time to maintain the routine.
- Have regular outside time – pop your dog outside with a bone or pigs ear to keep them entertained. If during quarantine you’ve caved and have him with you now all of the time, slowly start to increase his time outside alone. Do this several weeks before you expect to return to work, not a few days prior.
- Encourage the use of toys – make them more interesting by smearing dog food on them. If you’re not having much luck, try different types of toys like Kongs, squeaky toys, soft toys or rope toys.
- Use background music - if you’re working in a home office in another room consider playing some classical music or talk back radio quietly in the lounge room. Place a dog bed/mat in the room where the music is being played. Continue to play this music even when you leave the house and most certainly when you return to attending your normal workplace.
- Desensitise triggers - at random times throughout the day pop your work shoes on, put on your jacket and pick up your handbag. Treat the dog when you do this. Wear them around the house for 10 minutes and take them off. Pick up your car keys, treat the dog, and then make a cup of tea jingling the keys as you do it and don’t go anywhere, don’t leave the house. Doing this removes negative associations with the things you do right before you leave the dog.
- Separate yourself from the dog - use baby gates to restrict your dog from accessing you but they can still see and hear you. Progress the dog to another room where they can still hear you but no longer see you. Finally graduate the dog to outside time or a room where they can’t see or hear you. This should never be done to a point that the dog is distressed. It should always be positive, this can be ensured by providing music, enrichment, praise and treats. If the dog is still distressed even with enrichment, you’ve gone beyond their threshold and you need to go back to the previous stage and progress more slowly.
- Stagger your return to work - if possible see if you are able to work shorter hours at first, coming back at lunchtime, working from home a couple of days in the first week back, etc.
- Surveillance – consider filming your dog during the day when you first go back to work or for a couple of ‘test runs’ before you go back, so you can make sure they’re coping. You can do this by using security cameras, phone, webcam, etc.
- Crates – if your dog previously used a crate as part of your pre-Covid routine but hasn’t since you’ve started being around all the time, getting back into the habit of using it.
If at any point you are concerned about your dog’s reaction to being left home alone, feel free to call GAP Seymour on (03) 5799 0166 for more tips/tricks to help your dog ease into this transition.