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The College of Animal Welfare

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Helping your pet adjust as normality begins to resume after lockdown – the small differences, that can make a difference!

Staying home for so long for many of us may have been a struggle. However, our furry friends have most likely loved every minute of lockdown, having their humans around to offer pats, extra walks, the odd snack here and there, belly rubs, snuggles on the sofa and extra playtime!

With restrictions lifting we naturally begin to venture out for longer periods of time and some of us may be returning to work, but it is important we take time to allow our pets to adjust to the changes.

For many of us, our pets offered us continued love and affection during a time of uncertainty. With this in mind, as a thank you to them for being our favourite lockdown buddies we have unpacked a collection of ideas to help ease the transition for both our canine companions and our feline friends…

  • Gradually establish your ‘new’ old routine – Changes to our routine are something our pets can adapt to. If you are given the time to plan for changes to your routine, it is best to make gradual changes to the routine sooner rather than later to assist in it being less of a shock to your pet. Even if your pet took things in their stride pre-covid, it is still important to allow them time to adapt.
  • Create a cosy safe space – If you are able to, create a safe space for your pet. If you have noticed a particular place your pet tends to spend time, provided it works for you and is safe, set them a little camp up in this place. Put a comfy bed in there and a few toys. Obviously, be mindful of the temperature and ensure there are no hazards.
  • Creature comforts – It may sound weird, but perhaps leave a worn hoodie in your pet’s cosy space; leaving something with your scent on it for your pet may offer reassurance if they need it.
  • Still your trusty sidekick, no matter what – Your kitty may have gotten used to following you into the bathroom while you have a shower, or jumping on your lap while you’re working or you may have been taking your dog with you while you run errands. Now is the time to gently start give each other some space and enabling your pet to find some more independence. You can do this by closing the door for a few seconds or by getting a baby gate.
  • Practice makes perfect – Practice leaving and returning, doing this for short periods initially, then gradually build them up to longer periods. When you leave and return, make it a quiet and calm process (as much as would love to think our pets understand us when we tell them we’re off to work – not all of them do). Giving your pet something to play with or a healthy/safe long lasting treat to keep them occupied for a while after you have left might help. When you return, your pet will likely be very excited to see you, again make your reunion as calm as possible (even if it is the highlight of both your days!)
  • Let’s get physical – Making sure your pet has had some physical activity before being left alone for a while can really help them to feel calmer and enjoy resting while home alone! So it may be time to stop hitting the snooze button and get outside with your pets nice and early again! Be mindful of your dog’s exercise needs, taking into account their size/age/breed/health and fitness levels. If you are unsure of how much exercise your pet needs, you could always speak to your vets for advice.
  • Banish boredom– Provide opportunities for independent play. There are a range of toys, long lasting treats, pet puzzles and much more on the market! Please ensure they are suitable and safe for your pet to use while you are not around to supervise.
  • Keep an eye out for ‘tell-tail’ signs that your pet is getting distressed – Watch your pet’s behaviour while changes to their routine are happening, if you are worried take action! If you put off making positive changes to improve your pet coping with being left, things can start to escalate quite quickly.
  • Silence is not always golden! – Your pets may have become quite used to the hustle and bustle of your house since lockdown, if suddenly the house is quiet and empty it may cause your pet to become a little anxious. Leave a radio on, or play some ambient music while you are out. This can not only provide comfort, but can mask some of the noises from outside which may cause your pet to become restless. Please do try this out while you are present first to make sure your pet is not bothered by the noise – after all you and your pet may have very different taste in music!
  • Contact your daycare, dog walker or pet sitters – If you had a dog walker/pet sitter/daycare arrangements before lockdown, you may want to consider making arrangements for this service again. Make sure you contact your pet carer in advance as they may get booked up, and allow you to find the right service for you and your pet!
  • Zen vibes – Ensure your home is as peaceful as possible during the day while you are away. Are there particular windows your pet looks out of where they may get fractious about what is going on outside? Consider closing curtains or making this area off limits. Pet diffusers can be useful tools for creating a more relaxed environment for pets. If your pet gets worked up when the delivery man appears, try to schedule deliveries for when you are home rather than unsettling your pet with unnecessary knocks on the door.
  • Sometimes less is more – Try to slowly reduce the amount of cuddles and pets you give your pet prior to your return to work. This is likely one of the hardest suggestions (let’s face it, there is 100% chance we would rather be cuddling our pets than at work) but by reducing so much physical contact you prepare your pet a little more for the times when you will not be their on-demand pat provider!
  • Don’t give yourself a hard time – It is important to remember the reason you go to work is to allow you and your pets to have a nice comfortable life. Please don’t beat yourself up over having to spend less time at home – hopefully it won’t be long before everyone has adjusted to the changes and we are all back in the swing of things!

 We hope this is helpful for you, obviously all our pets are different and what may work for some mightn’t work for others. We wish you and your pets all the very best in returning to your routine!  

 

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