You may be excited about things returning to normal, but your pet probably isn’t going to like it.

Most of us hated being restricted to our homes this past year. But there were some in your household that loved it—your pets. Your dog was no doubt delighted each morning when he realized you weren’t walking out the door and he could cuddle with you all day. But now the pandemic is over, pets are about to get a big shock. As the members of your household return to work and school, pets are suddenly going to find themselves all alone. Petsmart’s Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Crista Coppola, Ph.D. has some tips on keeping your pet happy and anxiety-free.

Develop Routines

If you have some time before you have to return to the workplace full time, take little trips out of the house so your dog can get used to being alone again. Start by leaving for a few minutes and work up to a few hours. Get a cloud-based camera so you can monitor your pet while you’re gone and see how they’re doing.

Keep Them Busy

Get them back into their comfy crate or an exercise pen. Make sure they have their favorite toys and blankets in the crate. Give them special treats while you’re gone like bones or Kongs filled with peanut butter or yogurt. The treats will help them associate your departure with something positive and take their minds off the fact you’re gone. There are also different types of brain games you can buy that stimulate their brain and keep them entertained.

Recognize When Your Pet Is Struggling

Excessive barking, whining, accidents, and pacing are all symptoms of anxiety in pets. Destruction and not eating are all also signs that something is amiss.

"The bottom line is routines are helpful for most pets and even a vacation or a weekend away can disrupt their routine, making pets more susceptible to separation anxiety," Dr. Coppola said. "As pet parents and pet lovers, it is important to understand how we can prioritize our pets' mental health and how we can provide them with the tools they need to cope with change now and in the future.”

dog with human

Photo by Zen Chung from Pexels

How to Cope With Your Dog’s Anxiety

First, try some home remedies like pheromone collars and anxiety vests. Pheromone products like the ones used in vet offices release calming pheromones that make the dog feel secure. Anxiety vests like the Thundershirt work by applying slight pressure that provides a sense of security, thereby reducing anxiety. If your dog is still anxious, it’s probably time for a trip to the vet.

Pets that were adopted during the pandemic who have never experienced being away from their pet parents may have a tougher time adjusting. You might need to hire a dog walker to come and take your dog out during the day or drop them at doggie daycare a few days a week. Doggie daycare is a great way for your dog to socialize with other pets and expend lots of energy. Most dog daycares require your dog to undergo a trial before they can be admitted, so make sure you get that taken care of before the rush starts!

How is your pet faring with you going back to the office or school? Share in the comments.