After weeks of one-on-one companionship, it’s time for you to return to work. That means 8 hours or more of alone time for Fluffy or Fido. Here’s what you can do if your pet reacts stressfully.


How Will Pets Adapt To Our Return To Work?


Our stay-at-home existence these past few months has given us much more time with our pets.  Shelters have been emptied out as people have adopted and fostered pets, knowing they would be home to help their new pet get acclimated.  For owners who already had pets, they’ve been able to take long walks with their dogs every day and give extra lap time to their cats.  Hopefully, our pets have enjoyed this bonus time with us too.  Although some pets may have been stressed trying to adjust to their “people” being continuously home, the bigger stress may be adjusting to their owners’ absence as we return to work and our kids return to school.  So, the question is, how can we help our pets adjust to our absence as we return to our old routines?

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Cats Likely To Adapt Better Than Dogs


Cats, being more selective in their interaction with us, are likely to adapt more easily.  Cats like to sleep during much of the day and may enjoy the peace and solitude of an empty house once again.  When cats are stressed, they show it in more subtle ways than dogs.  Their first reaction is usually to urinate or defecate outside of the litter pan, so be sure to keep cat litter as clean as possible to encourage the pan’s use.  Other cats may pull out their fur or withdraw, but a more likely scenario is that your cat may just be more affectionate and want to spend more time with you after you come home.


Dogs May Experience Increased Anxiety


Dogs, however, may have more difficult transitions to our absence and re-homed dogs are more prone to separation anxiety.  Dogs that had to learn to bond with a new person/family often have a heightened attachment to that person.  Rescue dogs understandably may be anxious when that person leaves, perhaps worrying that they may not see that person again.  Dogs that are likely to have separation anxiety are needy, demanding attention/petting from their owners as they continually seek validation that their owner is with them.  They often follow their owners everywhere in the house and stay very close by to keep their owner in sight.  Many have a preferred person in the house that they “stalk” and they may transfer to other family members when that person is not present.


Help Anxious Dogs Cope With ‘Independence’ Training


If you have a dog that seems excessively attached to you, consider helping teach your dog independence now, so that when you do return to normal routines, he’ll be better equipped to handle the change.    When your dog pushes at your hand with his paw or nose to get you to pet him, have him perform a command first, such as sit or down or give paw, and then pet him.  By asking him to perform a command, you take your dog’s focus away from his obsession and instead get him to focus on what you want.  Have him perform a task before all attention, especially when he asks for it, ie. petting, treats, being fed.  In the end, he’ll get the same amount of attention, just with the focus on what you’re asking rather than on his obsession.


Monitor For Signs Of Distress


Pay attention to your dog prior to leaving the house and monitor if he appears anxious, vocalizes or paces. If he does, try distracting him with a food puzzle toy or a Kong toy filled with treats or peanut butter. Some dogs find classical music calming, so consider leaving music or the TV on for them.   There are also several calming nutritional supplements on the market that we suggest you try.  One of our favorite is Adaptil that you can purchase from us or through our online pharmacy.


                  Kong toys are great to preoccupy anxiety-prone dogs.


Some Dogs Require Anxiety Medication


For some dogs, separation anxiety from human family members resembles a panic attack. They may be destructive, hurting themselves and damaging the home.  If you’re concerned your dog may have more severe separation anxiety, more often seen with re-homed dogs, ask us if he might be helped by anti-anxiety medication.


If you’re concerned about your pet’s behavior, call us at (203) 775-3679or schedule a behavior consultation with us.  Anxious dogs often do very well with behavior modification and medication.  Recognizing the problem now, before you have another major change to your schedule, will make life much better for you and your pet.

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