The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a large number of changes for families, including new schedules, telecommuting, and virtual learning. For a great deal of Canadian families, that also meant welcoming a new pet into the home.
As children return to in-person learning, and parents are increasingly returning to working outside of the home, routines within the household are transforming for both pets and people yet again.
While most cats and kittens will be perfectly fine with these changes (let’s be honest, do cats really care what we do during the day?), it can have a detrimental effect on our dogs, who often depend on routine to thrive.
During the pandemic, many of us have been spending more time at home, and as a result our dogs have become accustomed to having round-the-clock company. As our children return to in-school learning and parents are returning to their workplaces, this disruption in routine can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for many dogs.
To prevent the development of stress-related behavioural problems, it is important to ease our pets into this new schedule. Consider easing into a new routine by leaving the home for a short period of time every day, at the times you would normally leave for school or work, if possible. Slowly increase the duration away from home as your dog adjusts to the new schedule.
Being home alone for extended periods of time can cause frustration and boredom for many dogs. This can lead to anxiety, changes in appetite, and even destructive behaviours around the home. However, alone time doesn’t have to be stressful, as long as your dog has the right distractions. Consider trying some of the following:
- Hide treats around the home for a fun scavenger hunt
- Stuff a kong or stuffable toy with peanut butter and treats, and freeze it for an extra long-lasting enrichment activity
- Lick mats and snuffle mats provide continuous engagement
- Leave the TV or radio on for background white noise
- Consider a natural calming supplement, such as a hemp oil
- Hire a dog walker for let-outs during the day
It is also important to prepare your pooch for the day with plenty of exercise. Take a long walk in the morning to help your pooch shed excess energy. This will also provide your dog with much-needed mental stimulation, and can prevent stores of energy from building up during the day. Also, try to give your pooch more opportunities for exercise in the evening. The more active, the better!
Increasing your dog’s activity doesn’t have to take up tons of time, either. Half an hour spent playing with furry friends at the dog park can be the exercise equivalent of hours of walking. Additionally, visiting a doggy daycare a few times a week is a fantastic way to provide your dogs with all the mental and physical stimulation they need.
During their time alone, many dogs experience feelings of loneliness as they are pack animals by nature. Be sure to spend lots of quality time snuggling and playing to reinforce the powerful human/animal bond. Encourage other members of your family to do the same, as this will help your pooch feel happy and loved during the new school year.
Whether it’s going back to school or the workplace, changes in routine can be a seamless transition when planned properly. By providing extra exercise, and some engaging enrichment activities in the home, you can ensure your dog has everything he needs to remain calm and relaxed until you get home.
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.