How will our pets cope when we return to work?

- Story researched and written by pet-mummy and Connect Health volunteer, Leesa.


Leesa's dogs Sherry (left) and Wine struggle with social distancing.  Goodness knows how they will cope when Leesa returns to work.

It has been about 10 weeks since I have been to the Connect Health & Community building because of coronavirus in Australia.  

I don’t know how my two dogs are going to adjust when I go back to work and leave the house, because at the moment I can’t even go to the toilet without one of them following me.

My two dog’s names are Wine and Sherry, Wine is nearly 13 years old and Sherry is nearly 7 years old.  

As I am typing this up, Sherry is under my desk and Wine is beside me, so I don’t go anywhere.  They’re watching every move I make.

A lot of us who have jobs to go back to will eventually have to return to the office, and this will bring a big change to our pets’ lives.  We will not be there to talk, play or walk with them after months of them being used to us being with around 24 /7.

Now that we are gaining more freedoms each week, we should start to think about how we can help our pets adjust to our impending ‘new’ routine - before we actually go back to work.   Because we know it is going to be hard on us when we do return to our work place, as well as our pets.

By starting sooner, rather than later we can make the change easier for us all.  And there are some simple things we can do to prepare them for when we go back to work:

  • If you have to hang your washing out or do some gardening, leave your pet inside so they can get used to being by themselves.
  • Get up at the same time as if you are going to work, dress in your work clothes and leave the house without your pet.  Then go do something for couple hours (remembering that we are still socialising distancing still.  Tips further in the article on how to fill your two hours) so your pet gets to know the routine again.
  • When you leave the house make sure you leave the same way you would if you were going to work. If you gave them a treat before coronavirus hit, then do so or what every you did before.
  • When you do come home do what you used to do, like patting them, giving them a treat, talking to them or taking them for a walk.

Social distancing friendly things you can do outside the house for a few hours to prepare your pet for the transition:

  • Go for a walk without your pet. It sounds mean, but it is for their benefit in the long run.
  • Do the shopping. If needed, wait in the car for half hour or so before or after your shop so you are out a bit longer than you should be.
  • Take your car for little drive down the road and find a good place to park where you can read a book for an hour or two.

    Your pet may have some separation anxiety issues and it will be hard for them for weeks, which is why we should start now to make it a lot easier when we do return to work.  Some things we can do to make it easier on them over this time include: 

    1. Making sure when you leave your house, your pet is safe (either inside or out) so if they do get a bit stressed, they can go somewhere they feel comfortable and cannot hurt themselves, destroy something or do anything dangerous.          
    1. Make sure they can go to the toilet if they need to and leave plenty of water for your pet while you are away. 
    1. You could ask a neighbour or friend (if they are not returning to work yet) if they could keep an ear out for your dog during the day until you get home. Make sure you go and see the neighbour or friend to find out what happened during the day.     

    It is important to know if your pet is showing signs of separation anxiety before you head back to work.  These symptoms include:

    1. The animal is visibly stressed.
    2. Your pet is panting or pacing.
    3. They look depressed before you go.
    4. You pet might bark or meow when you lock the door. 

    Pets can struggle with separation anxiety and they can destroy things when you are gone.  Commonly pets with separation anxiety: 

    1. Chew the door frames or window frames.
    2. Destroy household items like your bed, the couch or their bed.
    3. Escape and run to someone else for company because they might think you are leaving them forever.
    4. May become so stressed that they will wee or poo everywhere inside the house, this common for puppies and older dogs.

    When you do return home at the end of the day or night, your pet feels as though you have been for years, not just a day. 

    If your pet is still having trouble with being separated from you, you may need to consider talking to a dog trainer, as often their concerns do not simply go away.

    Of course, it is not only pets that have separation anxiety, we do too. 

    I think I am going to have trouble letting go of my two dogs, too.  I wonder if I could bring them to work?

    Best of luck all the staff and volunteers at Connect Health & Community as we return to work in coming weeks.



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