Phil Younger, co-founder, The PharmPet Co
Pet owners across the UK have spent the past three months with their pets by their side day and night. If our dogs and cats could speak, it would be interesting to know how they’re feeling about the prospect of their owners venturing out into the world without them once again – some might breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to catching up on their sleep, while others might be worried and anxious that their pack won’t be with them quite so much.
If your pet – dogs especially – is likely to fall into the latter category, it’s going to be important that you help them ease into life after lockdown. Almost like we’ll have to! Our pet’s routine was disrupted like never before in March, and returning to the ‘old ways’ might come as a challenge as their beloved owners go back to spending 8+ hours out of the house five days a week, leaving them with less time for playing, cuddling and generally getting everyone’s undivided attention.
Thankfully, there are a number of ways that we can help our four-legged friends adjust to a post-lockdown world and ease their potential anxieties in the process.
Create space away from your pet
This might sound a bit mean. When we’re at home, we often want to be close to our pets – even if we aren’t fussing them, having them near us is soothing for them and us. However, spending time in a different room – particularly if you’re still working from home – from your pet will help them get comfortable with occupying themselves once again.
Most of us will have found that trips outside have been with our pet in tow, making the most of having more time to go on walks and playing outside. In fact, it’s likely that the only time you went out without your pet for two months was on a weekly trip to the supermarket. If it’s likely that you’ll be out of the house much more frequently in the near future, you can help your pet adjust by starting to leave the house more often without your dog in the lead up to going back to ‘normal’.
This will give you a chance to assess how anxious this makes them. It might only be a temporary response that you can manage over time, with your dog returning to their usual ‘one bark as the door closes behind you and then straight for a nap’ routine that they had when you went out each morning. If you’re finding that your dog is becoming extremely unsettled and acting out of character while you’re out of the house – perhaps they make a mess or bark non-stop – it will be worth consulting your vet or researching safe calming products for your dog.
It’s worth using technology to film your dog while you’re out of the house if this will help you gain an insight into their behaviour. Hopefully, if you implement these changes slowly and incrementally, by the time you need to leave the house five days a week for an extended period of time, they’re comfortable with it once again.
New ways to spend time
If your dog’s days have been filled with quality time in the past few months, it’s important that they continue to be occupied in new ways – at least in the beginning.
To make sure they continue to enjoy themselves beyond lockdown, it might be worth considering how you can make small changes to their day to day lives so although you might not be as present as you have been recently, your dog finds fulfilment, happiness and stimulation in new ways.
There are lots of toys and games that are designed to keep your dog’s focus and attention. From food filled chew toys to stimulating games that will test their intelligence, there are plenty of options out there to keep your dog entertained and their attention on something that isn’t you. You can introduce these as soon as possible, leaving your dog to play while you move to another part of the house or go out without them. They’ll have fun, enjoy a healthy distraction and relax.
The new normal
While the idea of returning to work and having more time to socialise is an exciting prospect (or maybe not!), it’s important as pet owners that we consider how this will impact our dog. Just as the lockdown was probably a confusing time for them, on the most part they likely enjoyed having your company.
We’ve had a couple of months to adjust to this ‘new normal’, with another version of it on the horizon too, so taking the time to slowly adapt your dog’s routine – instead of suddenly not being with them as much – will help them feel secure, safe and loved. Our pets have been a rock for many of us during these difficult times, so they deserve our love and understanding as we all navigate our way back to normal.
Visit ThePharmPetCo for more pet advice and the latest products to keep your pet happy and healthy.