Quarantine has been tough for many people, but with extra snuggles, play time and walks, your pets have been loving it! As Arizona begins to reopen and many of us return to work, how will our furry friends take us going back to the old routine? Now is the time to start “social distancing” from your pets to make the transition slow, methodical and a positive experience for both you and Fido.
Like people, dogs and cats are creatures of habit. Your pets know when it’s time for a dinner or walk like clockwork. They know your unique patterns of behavior and are in tune with your schedule so closely, you might not even realize it. During quarantine, they have adapted to your new habits such as TV time at lunch and extra mid-day walks to get out of the house. Altering your behavior toward your normal work schedule now will help them readjust to life before quarantine.
Start slowly. Take time out of your day to run errands outside of the house, whether it’s picking up takeout from your favorite local restaurant or going to the park to watch the sunset without them. Start with small amounts of time out of the house and work your way up. Allow time for your pet to remember that it’s ok when you are gone. Some people have rarely left their house during quarantine, but your dog or cat needs to remember that you once left without any issue. If your job allows you to work a modified schedule, start by working a few hours at home and a few hours in the office. Gradually increasing the hours you’re gone will develop a routine with your pet.
When was the last time your dog spent time in their kennel? Kennels are a place of happiness and relaxation, but your pup may not have spent any time in their “happy place” since you’ve been home. Kennel training is like riding a bike, and slow, positive reminders can help your dog rebuild their love of their kennel. Be sure to not use the kennel as a “time out” or place for punishment, as it can destroy the work you invested and foster a rift between you and your dog.
Toys and puzzles can be a great way for your pets to keep occupied and engaged while you are at work. Mental stimulation can be as exhausting as physical exercise, and an entertained pup is a well-behaved pup. Invest in hollow, hard rubber toys such as a Kong, fill them with peanut butter or pumpkin, toss them in the freezer and give them to your dog before your leave for the day. Your dog will love the treat and they will begin to form a positive association with you leaving. Puzzles filled with their breakfast can be left around the house for them to find, providing surprises and adventure throughout the day. However, if you are adding calories with toys and puzzles, be sure to cut back on your dog’s mealtime calories so they don’t become a pudgy puppy.
This will be a hard time for your pets. You have spent more time together in quarantine than possibly any time in your relationship! But with these tips and a lot of positivity, your pet will be on track for your return to work.
Written by: Brie Kuna, Arizona Animal Welfare League
Brie Kuna is the behavior team lead and a dog trainer at Arizona Animal Welfare League, the state’s oldest and largest no-kill shelter.