As the UK lockdown continues to lift gradually and some return to work, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has issued advice to dog owners to help their beloved pets adjust to the change.
The Covid-19 lockdown saw more people spend time at home and as a result they shared more time with their furry companions. But as restrictions continue to lift and normalcy returns, both humans and their dogs will have to learn to adjust.
Sarah Tapsell, a regional clinical animal behaviourist at the RSPCA said, “Changes in routine are something a dog can adapt to, but it’s important to think ahead and begin to make gradual changes before you change your routine again when you go back to work. Otherwise, when things change again suddenly, it may come as a shock to your dog, even if they handled it well before Covid-19. Even the most resilient of dogs can get worried sometimes.”
RSPCA provided some tips on how to help your dog cope with your gradual return to the office.
- Gradually change the timings of your dog’s routine to the way they will eventually be. If the time you feed or walk your dog has changed due to lockdown then slowly start to change it back to how it was before. Doing this can prevent your dog from experiencing frustration and anxiety when their daily schedule suddenly doesn’t match what they’ve come to expect.
- Begin to gradually return your dog’s routine to normal before it has to change. Consider the amount of walks, location and times that are part of your dog’s normal routine. Gradually adjust your walks to match this. Dogs may not be left alone at all during lockdown or for brief intervals only, and they’re probably getting much more attention and interaction. But if this is likely to change when you go back to work then they need to prepare them for that. The RSPCA recommends gradually decreasing the amount of attention you give your dog, and increase the time they spend on their own. This may include not playing with your dog every time they ask or not stroking them everytime they nudge you. It cautions to not completely ignore your dog as this may confuse them, but do give them something better to do like a comfy bed to lay on or a tasty chew to settle with.
- Give them a routine as close as possible to the one they’ll experience when restrictions are lifted. Help your dog spend more time alone by encouraging them to rest in their own bed or keeping them in a separate room while you do something else.
- Give your dog clear signals about when they can be involved in interactions and when they need to occupy themselves. Chew toys or interactive toys your dog can use without you can help you to do this.
- Try to keep interaction time for when you will be available once your routine is back to normal, for example in the evenings after dinner.
- You may also want to think about leaving the house without the dog to help your dog to gradually get used to this part of their routine again. However, if your dog shows any distress when left alone then pause your plans and seek the support of a qualified behaviourist.
- If you are returning to using a dog walker, friend or family member to care for your dog while you are busy they might be very excited or even a little apprehensive having spent time with only you. It can be useful for you to remain home on the first walk or two, just in case your dog needs any extra support from you.
“Remember that your dog is a social animal, it’s normal for them to want and need to spend time with you. This means that it is important that you aren’t leaving your dog for too long during the day, or longer than they can cope with. Any dog left too long will struggle, with or without good advice to help them to cope,” Tapsell said.
RSPCA dog welfare expert, Dr Samantha Gaines, said, “Always introduce changes gradually and in a positive way, using only positive, reward-based training. And if you have any concerns about how your dog will cope, it is always best to seek advice from a qualified behaviourist who can support you throughout the changes.”
The RSPCA also provided tips on how to help cats cope with adjusting to life after lockdown. Click here for more.
With lockdowns easing across the UK, pet parents should understand the needs of their dogs to help them adjust to life after lockdown. After having spent so much time near you they will likely miss your constant company so it’s important to ensure a smooth transition when you go back to normal house and office hours. The RSPCA’s tips are handy to help that transition.
I would hope to see many employers understand the bond between humans and canines and perhaps more offices could allow dogs to accompany their pet parents in the future to help ease the transition to life after lockdown.
Recently, data from Offices.co.uk showed that more workplaces in the UK could be dog-friendly after the lockdown.