Good advice from our friends at Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital, Laurel, MD.
By Dr. Janet Weistock, Veterinarian
As many people have been at home for much more time than they had been throughout the COVID restrictions, your pets have been enjoying all the extra time with you. Whether you have a 10-year-old dog or a puppy you got while you have been home more, it is important to get them prepared for when you do return to work or a more normal routine of being away from home and away from them more than they have grown accustomed to avoid separation anxiety behavior problems. First, if you have tossed all routine to the wind since the pandemic started, then it is time to get your pet on a routine now and not go cold turkey when the time comes. If you have a new/young puppy and have been crate training, great, you are a couple steps ahead. If you have not been crate training, you may want to consider starting. This is a safe haven for your puppy and will keep them from getting into trouble when you aren’t home or when you are asleep. Start by putting them in for short periods at a time, and/or even feeding them in the crate. Gradually increase the time they spend in there. Even if you are home all day right now, this is important to do so they are not in shock when you suddenly leave them for 8 hours at a time. If you are opposed to crating or have an adult dog, an alternative is putting them in a separate room or gating them in a confined area away from you. Keeping a routine of feeding them at what will be the normal times they will be getting fed when you go back to your old routine is important if you have not already been doing so, as pets grow accustomed to routines and sudden changes can lead to anxiety. Getting activity toys are also good to keep them entertained without relying on you for all of their entertainment. There are many different ones out there to choose from. If you have a super energetic dog and have the financial means, doggy daycare is a great outlet for them to play for longer periods while you are at work. Or hiring a pet sitter to walk them mid day if you don’t like leaving them confined for a full work day. Just remember, what you do now is very important in your pet’s mental health down the road.