Story at a glance
- Pets are facing separation anxiety as owners transition out of remote work.
- Doggy day cares and veterinarians are helping owners and pets handle the change.
- Websites such as Petmate are offering recommendations on how to ease into the transition.
After about 15 months of humans working from home, pets have grown accustomed to the near-constant presence of their owners. While some have taken to returning their newly adopted shelter pets as coronavirus restrictions have begun to lift and a return to the office looms, animal lovers who have held on to their pets are facing a different issue: separation anxiety.
“We are getting lots of calls from people going back to work,” Adam Feingold, the owner of Dogstown University in Deerfield Beach, Fla., told the Seattle Times. “People want to be reassured that their dogs will not be alone. They have been attached at the hip for a year. We work it through with them.”
The adjustment is difficult on both ends, with feelings of anxiety also plaguing owners.
“As a dog lover, I understand this,” Karyn Hoffman, a social worker and therapist in Boca Raton, said. “Research shows animals have a calming effect on us. If your animal is your companion, you are going to miss them when you leave the house.”
To aid with the transition, Petmate compiled some recommendations on how to prepare pets for your return to work.
Creating a new routine for pets is crucial, allowing them to adjust to specified time for walks, playing, feeding and rest.
Petmate stresses that “no matter how hard it might be (for you and your pet), you have to start leaving them alone.” Even if only for small increments, which can become shorter or longer depending on the pet’s reaction, it makes for an easier adjustment than springing into a long stretch of absence.
Some refresher training may be necessary, particularly if a crate will be utilized, through the use of small treats as positive reinforcement.
Dog day cares can be expensive, though for some dogs it can provide a way for them to socialize, have bathroom breaks and occupy them while owners are away.
“If you’ve got to crate them a little bit more, let them get used to that,” Dee Allison, president of the Humane Society of Houston County, told 41 WMGT. “If you can come home at lunch time to let them out and get a break, or if you can afford it, some people can afford doggy daycare or have pet sitters that come by and let them out to go potty.”
Increasing the number or duration of a pet’s walks or exercise is also helpful, giving them an energy outlet.
“Excess energy is not always a good thing,” Petmate states. “It tends to fuel separation anxiety and boredom.”
If the anxiety persists or your pet exhibits behaviors such as destroying furniture or accidents, consult your veterinarian for the best course of personalized action.
“Our pets have been there for us and provided companionship and comfort through an extremely difficult year,” said Eric Rayvid, the Best Friends Animal Society director of public relations, adding, “There’s no reason people going back to work can't successfully keep their pets, with some adjustments and planning."
READ MORE ANIMAL STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA