Q: I have been working at home during the pandemic, and I expect to return to my regular workplace soon. My two dogs have become accustomed to having me home, and I'm concerned that their stress will increase when I'm again away 40 hours every week. What can I do to make the transition easier for them?
A: Your concern for your dogs' emotional health is compassionate. Fortunately, you can do several things now to lessen their stress when you return to your regular office.
Start by maintaining a consistent routine. Get up and go to bed on the same schedule you'll use when you return to the office. Feed and walk your dogs at the same times you'll feed and walk them when you're away all day at work.
Gradually increase your time away from home. Leave for an hour or two each day, even if you have to sit in your car and read or take a walk by yourself in the park. When it's time to return to the office, begin with a couple of half-days each week, and then gradually increase your hours and days at work.
Make your departures and returns quiet and uneventful. If your dogs are anxious, practice calm departures several times a day. If you're anxious, do your best not to share your stress with your four-legged family members.
Provide mental stimulation for your dog when they're home alone. Rotate their toys, play relaxing music or, better yet, a video or television show designed for dogs.
For the first month or two, use Adaptil collars or plug-in diffusers. They release a pheromone that helps dogs feel relaxed and safe.
If you adopted your dogs during the pandemic, enroll them in a group obedience training class to increase their self-confidence and accustom them to new people, dogs and circumstances.
Editor’s Note: Foster pets can be especially vulnerable to behavioral issues, so here’s how you can smooth the back-to-work transition for your pet post-quarantine.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.