How can I get my pet on a schedule?

We are living in what has been referred to as “the new normal.” Many individuals are working from home and coming to grips with staying productive in their new home-office environment. Schools are closed and that may mean you’re not only trying to work from home, but you’re also helping your children complete schoolwork, while keeping them and your pets entertained. It’s a difficult balancing act.

So, how can we help our pets cope with the change in routine brought on by the Coronavirus outbreak and social distancing? We have some practical advice.

Tips for getting your pet into a new routine.

Set up a new routine. You need a routine for your new work style and so does your dog. Even if you don’t have to get up as early as you used to, you still want to get into a routine of getting up around the same time. Set your alarm, for example, and get up at 9 am every workday. Your dog will get accustomed to that time and his body will adjust to it. He will sleep through the night then be ready to go outdoors to do his business once you get up then eat his breakfast.

Note: You may find that your dog has accidents in the house if he is accustomed to going out at 6 am and now he is having to wait until 9 am or later.

Eat at specific times. Don’t give into the urge to raid the refrigerator and cupboards all day long. Since your dog is unaccustomed to you being home and eating breakfast or lunch, you need to resist the urge to overfeed him just because you’re eating. If you can’t resist those puppy eyes and want to give her a snack—make sure it’s healthy. Consider feeding your pup low-calorie treats.

Editor’s Note: Scarf’d simple pet recipes: easy-to-make and dog approved. Crafted in our office test kitchen with the help (and appetites) of our beloved Figo dogs. So, go ahead and share these tasty treats with your pup.

Take a walk. Getting out—and staying six feet away from anyone you encounter—is great for you and your dog and your mental and physical health. You may want to avoid dog parks or other areas where people are gathering to protect yourself. Taking a walk or a jog or a hike is a treat for you and your pet. It will alleviate stress and help you both stay in shape.

Relax. This is a stressful time for humans and our pets are empathetic to our moods. It may be difficult, or impossible, to relax, but we urge you to try. Spend time away from the news and your computer and simply snuggle with your pets. They will enjoy having your undivided attention and you will benefit because it’s a proven fact that petting a dog or cat can lower your blood pressure.

Give it time. Your pet will need time to get adjusted to the new way of life. Don’t abruptly go from a 6 am breakfast to a 10 am breakfast. Ease your pet into it and you will likely find a pet who doesn’t act out by chewing shoes, clawing walls or barking and howling all day!

Consider adding these activities in your pet’s new routine.

Routines are necessary to a happy, healthy pet and so is entertaining them. If you’re trying to get work done and your dog is barking or nudging you or your cat has decided that laying on your hands while you’re trying to type is part of his new routine, here are tips to keep them occupied.

  • Food puzzles rule! There are food puzzle toys and snuffle mats, practical toys for cats and dogs. Choose a toy, put in kibble and let your pet figure out the puzzle. He will get rewarded with a treat when he works it out.
  • Hide and seek. Take the food puzzle to a new level and hide the puzzles. Your pet will not only need to find the food-filled puzzle, and when she does, she will then have the entertaining time of working out the puzzle and getting the food rewards.
  • Fetch. Tire your pup out before you get on a conference call with colleagues. Whether you can get outdoors in the yard for a game or if you have to play fetch in the house, it’s a great way to burn off some of your dog’s energy and can you truly not laugh and enjoy watching your dog run and play? We think not!
  • Feather toys. Tire your kitty out and play with her in a room other than where you’re working. Have her play with a feather toy or toss some catnip filled toys around for her to pounce on. This just might tire her out and keep her off your keyboard while you’re typing.
  • More brain games. Brain games that require your pooch to think about how to solve the puzzle or how to find something can help to prevent boredom and destructive behaviors such as chewing and barking. With a few household objects, you can challenge your pup and teach them new tricks.  

Keep in mind the return to “normal.”

Remember, when this is all over and you go back to work, ease your pets into that routine. If you know you will be going back to work in a week, use that week leading up to it to ease your pet back into his former routine. Move bedtimes, wake up times and food times accordingly. If you find your dog truly benefited from having more attention during the day and getting more walks, it may be time to consider asking a friend or family member or professional dog walker to pay a visit and entertain your dog when you go back to work.

Conclusion

Our pets are accustomed to our routine: They wake up, take a walk, eat, leave the house and/or bid us good-bye when we leave for work. They spend their time in their crates, lying on our beds, barking at the squirrels on the bird feeder or playing with their toys. They save up their energy for the time we walk back through the door at the end of the day. And when their schedule is disrupted it can cause them stress.

Do our pets love having us home and being with us more often? You bet they do! Do our pets feel anxiety and stress because of the disruption in their routine and because they are feeling our stress? Again, yes they do. Enjoy the time home with your pets. They are with us for such a short time and treasure every moment with us—we urge you to do the same!


Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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