Half of Americans have recently started working from home in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The good news is that you’ve had a lot more time to enjoy your pets. And your new co-workers are probably a lot more fun than your old boss! You may have even become a little co-dependent on your new co-workers during this time… and vice versa. So, what can we do to help our dogs adjust as we slowly return to work? We’ve interviewed veterinarians, dog trainers, and seasoned pup-parents to help answer this question. You might find some of these tips just as relevant for you, as well.
# 1 EXERCISE
One method we can all agree on is that exercise plays the most important role in health for us and our dogs. Red Beard Dog Training recommends taking your dog for a walk everyday and even 2 -3 times a day if possible. Exercise strengthens your dog’s physical and mental health, while also providing some priceless bonding time. Plus, it’s a good way for us to burn off those quarantine snacks!
# 2 TRANSITION SLOWLY
If possible, try easing into your new schedule. You’ve likely found many ways to stay productive from home and if you are able to slowly transition by working half days for the first week, or working from home occasionally, it may help your dog anticipate the adjustment. But, did you really need an excuse to take another conference call in your pajamas? If you are still working from home, taking mini trips out of the house will help your dog prepare for longer days at home alone.
# 3 STAY NATURAL WITH CBD
CBD is a natural and safe way to promote calmness for your dog. Dr. Fusch of Key Veterinary Care recommends finding a supplement brand you trust, like BakedBones, and observing how your dog responds. If CBD works for your dog, you’ll soon be able to determine how much he or she needs and how long before it takes effect. A situation-specific stress like returning to work may call for you to double your dog’s daily supplement dose.
“CBD from hemp has been shown to help with anxiety. It’s important to make sure that you have a high quality product that is sourced from high quality plants”
- Dr. Jessica Fusch, Key Veterinary Care
BakedBones recommends giving CBD 20-40 minutes BEFORE anticipated stress inducers. Your dog is smart and very observant. If your dog has separation anxiety and you are getting ready to leave for work, try giving a BakedBone before you even put on your shoes! It is significantly easier to avoid stressing out your dog than it is to try calming them down from a stressed state, so be proactive and save both you and your dog from a morning meltdown.
# 4 PROVIDE STRUCTURE
It has been harder lately for us, and for our pets, to find and maintain routine. Start anticipating your new schedule and adjust now. Small gestures like feeding, walking, and playing at the same time each day will help your dog anticipate what is to come.
# 5 ALONE TIME
Downtime is important for us and for our dogs to rest and recover. Puppies and senior dogs need a lot more sleep, so make sure your dog already has a secure place where they are comfortable before you have to leave them at home. Baby gates and puppy pens are an easy way to carve out a special space for them. Even shutting the door to a room for at least 1-2 hours a day will help your dog understand how much they enjoy and need that alone time.
# 6 ASK FOR HELP
Consider asking a friend or family member to check in on your dog during the day while the transition is still new. Another option is to find a local dog walker, trainer, or doggy daycare, like The Green Bone (where the cool dogs play), to host your dog and help them socialize while you are away. Dogs are generally very social animals, so allowing them to make a new and special human friend or to wear themselves out with the pack at daycare will likely turn a stressful situation into a positive one.
# 7 MAKE IT A GAME
Play is important. If you have to leave your dog alone for longer periods of time, try introducing new cognitive games, puzzles, and chew toys. It just might save your furniture! Giving a toy right before you leave for the day will help keep your dog calm and distracted at the most stressful time.
# 8 PUPPIES NEED EXTRA ATTENTION
There has been a Covid “puppy boom.” Shelters are grateful for the surge in adoptions, but there are always more shelter dogs looking for their forever home. If you welcomed a new puppy to your home recently, remember that they will have a harder time adjusting to your return to work schedule. For a puppy, this will be a new experience and they will likely be more sensitive to the adjustment and require extra attention. According to Dr. Jessica Fusch of Key Veterinary Care, “Older dogs will most likely adjust fine, but if you just adopted a puppy, you will need to work on transitioning.”
# 9 LEARN A NEW TRICK
Did you learn any new skills while working from home? Baking, knitting, Pilates? Your dog loves to learn, and an easy way to make sure you are spending enough time with your dog when you are able to be at home is by learning new tricks together. There are a wealth of online resources and YouTube tutorials to help get you started. We haven’t learned to shake yet, so that’s our next goal! Practice makes perfect.
# 10 REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOR
It is common to give a treat or extra affection when your dog follows instructions… sit… stay… roll over. It is just as important to reward them for the good behavior that you didn’t instruct. If you find your dog calmly nested, take the time to reward them with an extra belly rub or treat.
Take a Holistic Approach
The last few months have been a major experiment in maintaining balance between productivity, health, and self-care. We are all learning how to best adjust to the new normal. The most effective way to transition is with a holistic approach, so your dog will likely get the most benefit from a combination of the tips described above.
Stay calm. Stay healthy. Pet your dog.
What works best for your dog?
Do you have other tips that you’ve found helpful? Share your experience so we can learn together!