How to ease your pet into your return to the office

Pups4Fun owner Rhiannon Beach with Jen Stein and her dog, Myf, and Pups4Fun dog trainer Jess Gear. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Pups4Fun owner Rhiannon Beach with Jen Stein and her dog, Myf, and Pups4Fun dog trainer Jess Gear. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Heading back to the office has never looked so good to many Canberrans, but leaving behind the pets who got them through lockdown won't go down as well.

Pets have been a source of joy for many throughout the ACT's three-month lockdown, but this quality time will see an uptick in separation anxiety as pet owners return to work.

RSPCA ACT chief executive Michelle Robertson said lower numbers of stray animals had been observed during lockdown periods.

"There's been lots of really great advantages to the animals, but also to the humans," she said.

"I think that there is a case to say if it's good for animal welfare, and it's good for us, maybe there are some COVID silver linings, things that we need to keep.

"There are some pet-friendly workplaces. Isn't that now an opportunity to start looking at growing that so it becomes more of the norm, where people can take animals to work?"

Plan it out 

For those who haven't quite sold their bosses on bringing their animal companions to work, Ms Robertson said it was important to plan out the transition back to the office.

While separation anxiety was commonly associated with dogs it also affected other pets, including birds and cats.

People can prepare their pets for the change by practising being away from them during the day, as well as giving them a treat when you leave, and not making a big deal of things when you return home, she said.

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Keeping pets engaged during the day with interesting activities was also important, Ms Robertson said.

"There's some really good resources on the internet, on how you can make interesting toys and things for your for your pets. That doesn't have to cost that much money.

"But it's things that they can scratch, smell, sniff, climb, all of those things are really good for them."

For some, daycare services for pets could be an option, she said.

Demand for pet services grows

Pups4Fun Owner Rhiannon Beach said business had seen more demand for care and training services to deal with separation anxiety since lockdown ended, with some dogs having always had their owners home.

"We've had some really massive growth that we're trying to keep up with because there's a lot of what they call 'the COVID puppies' coming in," she said.

"So you've got a lot of puppies that didn't get to go out, it wasn't just they didn't get puppy classes being locked down [but] that they missed a whole bunch of ... socialisation and things that they would have normally done if it wasn't during a lockdown period.

"But it's great to see how proactive owners are and really picking up [on] and wanting to do the best for their dogs."

Easing pets into a post-COVID lifestyle

"It can be a bit of an adjustment for both owner and dog, because they haven't been sort of separated for that period," Ms Beach said.

Her pro tip: make it a staggered return if you can.

"I think probably the best thing is to try and make it some sort of gradual return, especially if they've been home for a significant amount of time," Ms Beach said.

"And practice separation whilst at home, so get the dog to go outside whilst you're at home and just practice that little bit of separation in a gentle sort of manner.

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"Then you can use ... similar services, like what we have with the daycare, which gives them a way to be not only be in a safe environment, but also use their brain and physical energy," she said.

Separation anxiety in dogs can present in a number of ways, including excessive barking, panting, salivating, destruction, trying to escape and exhibiting any other signs of panic, she said.

"Just be patient and don't give up before you've you've really given a good go," Ms Robertson said.

"Please work with your animals and most challenges have a solution."

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This story How to ease your pet into your return to the office first appeared on The Canberra Times.