Were you one of the millions of workers who in 2020 transitioned from going into an office for your workday, to performing your work remotely from home? Not only was this an adjustment for you, but we’re guessing it was also an adjustment for your furry family. At first they weren’t sure why you were hanging around the house so much, then they got used to it, and now they’re your favorite office buddies! Or perhaps you adopted a dog from a shelter or breeder while you were working from home, and that’s the normal way of life that they know.
Fast forward to current times – has your company decided to bring you back into the office, either on a staggered schedule or fulltime? If so, you may be having some concerns as to how your furry friends are going to react. Dogs are very much creatures of habit, and their routine is about to be shaken up. Let’s talk about signs or actions that they may use to indicate their stress, and also about steps you can take now to reduce or eliminate their stress when you do go back to your daily commute to and from work.
An important idea to remember is that the stress signs they may exhibit are not acts of retaliation because you’ve left them alone – it truly is because they have not gotten used to being without you.
Physical signs of their stress can include pacing, having a stiff body, “freezing”, or cowering. They may continuously lick their lips, drool and/or pant when they’re not hot, or not eat when you’re gone. They may vocalize, or have inappropriate urination or bowel movements.
One item that may help you determine if your furry family member is stressed while you’re gone is a pet cam – also called nanny cam, baby cam, security cam, etc. There are a wide variety of inexpensively priced models that can be monitored with your cell phone. Most of these cameras also have two way audio – however, hearing your voice come out of the camera may stress your dog even more! They’re not as up to date on modern technology as we are…
What steps can we take to help them with this transition, to get ready for the time when they’ll be on their own again for extended periods of time?
If you’re able to, and you know what time you’ll be leaving for work every day, start leaving now! Just for a short period of time at first – get them used to the idea that you’ll be leaving them alone at a certain time of day. You can go grab a cup of coffee, go to the park, or maybe go to breakfast. Initially, you can be gone for around 15 or 20 minutes, just to get them used to the idea. This is a great time to monitor the pet cam with your phone, and see how they react to your absence. If you’re able to gradually increase the time you’re gone, that’s great – but if not, at least you’re starting a pattern or habit for them to get used to.
You might also want to look into doggy day care – perhaps once or twice a week if it fits in your schedule and budget. Most day cares will want a “trial day” with your dog, to ensure they interact well with both other pets and with the staff. A trial day, or half day, will also help your dog with the transition. Again, however, if your dog is not an overly social one, this may cause the same or more stress than being alone.
Once you go back to work, are you able to come home at lunch? If you live close by, and are able to, this will not only shorten the amount of time your dog is without you, and give them a “check in” with you in the middle of the day – it also gets you out of the office! It may help both of you reduce your stress level…
If you’re unable to take these steps, or you have taken them and you continue to feel your dog may be stressed, please give us a call. One of our veterinarians can discuss the situation with you, and propose a plan tailored to both you, and your dogs, lifestyles.
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