Life After COVID-19: How to Help Your Pets Transition Back to Normalcy
During the past few months, dogs everywhere have had the great fortune of having their parents by their sides… at all times! It’s safe to say that the recent global pandemic has made very happy pets out of our fur-babies (even though it certainly stressed most everyone else out!). As places around the country begin to ease up on stay at home restrictions, a new question has come up: How will our pets deal with the transition?
At Pet Waggin’, we’ve already gotten a few questions about managing pets’ stress and anxiety levels as people prepare to once again leave the house. We’re so glad that Long Beach trusts us as the best darn pet specialists that we are! And answering questions like these is just one of the many reasons why we’re here.
Change isn’t easy for anyone, canines or humans, and separation anxiety is no joke. In fact, we wrote a similar blog on How Change Affects Your Pets. Unfortunately, the sudden change in routine can result in a number of unwanted behaviors, not to mention causing stress and depression in your pets.
But we know that going back to normal life after COVID-19 doesn’t have to traumatize your pets if you take the right steps. Here’s what we suggest:
Depending on your job, you may have some flexibility, especially if your place of employment is taking the transition slowly, too. Before diving right back into life as it was several months ago, try leaving the house in small periods of time and slowly increasing the amount of time that you’re gone. If possible, you may want to think about asking to work from home part-time (that might be best for your sanity, too!).
If you do have to be at work full-time, see if you can stop home on lunch breaks or other breaks throughout the day, so your pet can see you more often.
Consistency is Key
Even if a return to “normal life” can’t happen right away, you can still create some routine and structure that will make your pet feel safe. Whether you’re only going back to work part-time or there’s been a major scheduling change when it comes to your employment, we suggest finding as normal as a routine as possible—the routine that most resembles your pets’ normal care when it comes to feeding and walks. Put your pets’ needs first, and work around that as you figure out what works best for you and your household (and if you need our help, we’re here for those dog walks).
Keep it Low-Key When it Comes to Affection
Warning: This one’s gonna be tough for the doting and extra-affectionate pet parents out there! (Okay, it might be tough for all of us.) It’s tempting to show your pets tons of affection before leaving the house and when returning home. After all, we always feel bad leaving them, especially now after they’ve had access to us 24/7!
But, it’s more helpful to be as calm and unemotional as possible when leaving and returning. Saying, “See you later,” or “I’ll be back soon,” should do it, without hugging, kissing, or soothing. If you make a big deal about leaving, you’re only making the difference (and your absence) that much more obvious. When you return, let your dog settle down before you greet him or her. The whole idea is to make your absences as uneventful as possible.
Keep Your Pet Busy While You’re Gone
There are many solutions to ease your dog’s stress in your absences. Some experts suggest leaving a personal item behind with your scent. For example, keep some of your clothes in his bed or in his pen with him.
But your pups may be more bored than usual when you’re gone, so you’ll also want to keep them mentally and physically active. Here are some ideas:
Puzzle toys: The pet industry is ripe with puzzle toys and puzzle feeders! That’s because they’re the ultimate way to keep your pet focused and engaged. They also decrease the likelihood of your pup destroying something else in your absence
Long-lasting treats and filled Kongs: Your pup may just wear himself out chewing on a bully stick or trying to get to the peanut butter in the middle! These are great solutions for keeping up with his dental hygiene, too.
Snuffle mats: If you don’t already have one, we highly recommend snuffle mats. It’s one of the best ways of letting your dog exercise his natural instinct for hunting as well as keep him busy. There are tons of different snuffle mats you purchase with a wide variety to choose from, or you can Do-it-Yourself!
Help Your Pet Transition Even While You’re Home
If you’ve already started the transition and are leaving the house regularly, your dog may exhibit signs of anxiety even when you’re home. Even for pets, mental health is not an on/off switch! One key thing to remember is to never scold your pets for demonstrating his or her anxiety or exhibiting unwanted behaviors. Actually, we at Pet Waggin’ believe only in positive reinforcement techniques, but especially when it comes to separation anxiety, scolding will only do more harm than good. In fact, your dissatisfaction will likely only increase your pets’ stress.
Stay active and engaged with your pets while you’re home. This is especially helpful in wearing them out before you have to leave. Keep up with your regular walks (and if you can’t, we’re here!), work on finding a steady routine together, and play, play, play! Cats aren’t the only ones who love laser points… try it out with your pups, too!
And last but not least, use this time to invest in new activities for your pets. With slow-reopenings, there will be more and more opportunities to keep your dogs properly socialized. The best way to keep them moving and stimulated is by re-introducing them to other people, like your pals here at Pet Waggin’ Pet Care!
When we take your pets out, we’re re-introducing your pets to the idea of spending time with other people, keeping them active, healthy, and happy! Get in touch and let us know how we can help you help your pets’ transition back to normal life!