Separation anxiety as you return to work
As lockdown restrictions have almost been completely lifted, more and more people are returning to the office as working lives revert back to normal. For anyone with a pet, it’s important to realise that this spells a completely new ‘normal’ also for your pet. They have been used to your constant presence for the past 20 months, and now they will think that “you are leaving them”!? To allay their fears, and overcome the risks of separation anxiety, there are some things you can start immediately which will help…..
1. Build up to leaving your pet a room
You want your pet to tolerate being in the house for short periods on its own. Leave your pet in a room on its own, and you can be in the room next door in case it becomes very anxious. Start with a two-minute trial, and gradually build up every day so that it can tolerate being on its own for up to 2 hours.
2. Use body language and cues
Use your voice to let your pet know that now it’s time to play, and introduce a specific toy that reinforces that association. After you’ve played tug for 20 minutes, tell your pet that now you need to leave and remove the toy at the same time. This lets your pet know that playtime has now finished and you need to leave the house for a short time.
3. Enrich the Environment
Dogs are highly intelligent and cerebral creatures. They like nothing better than a good brain teaser or a mental challenge, which uses up a lot of their energy. Simple tips such a filling a kong with kibble and making it “challenging” to remove or pasting a lick mat with their favourite pate are simple but highly effective ways of soaking up a dog’s attention, time, and energy. Replenishing their toys every few weeks is also keeps them occupied. If your dog can move about the house from room to room they will also enjoy that freedom, and always remember to have a dog walker available if you cannot make it back within 3 hours. Dogs need regular exercise, which is not only beneficial for their physical health but also equally as important for their mental health and wellbeing.
You may not be a pet parent however you can really improve a pet’s life by sharing this with any pet people you know.
Tim Kirby is a Veterinary Surgeon and founder of www.petbond.ie where pets meet people.