The Pet Parent's Back-to-Work Guide: Preparing Your Pet

Updated: 6/25/2021
 Working from home, studying at the table instead of going to school, and just being home so much, in general, has been different.

Adjustments have been part and parcel for everyone at home—including our animal family members. They’ve certainly enjoyed our company (and we theirs), and have become quite used to having their favorite humans around all of the time.

Besides the families that already had dogs, cats, and other lovable creatures as a part of the household, are those who have adopted pets over the past several months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dogs are particularly popular, and it’s no surprise that pet parents are starting to wonder how their favorite four-leggers are going to fare when everyone returns to work and school. Animals have been part of getting through these tough times (remember your pet always upbeat and a big stress reliever!), and it’s only right we help them adjust to the coming changes. 

Wag! has the perfect solution to figuring it all out. Read on to learn everything you need to know about heading back to your place of employment or study, and what to do to help your canine kiddo make the transition along with you!

The big transition: Pet Parents returning to work

You’ve added a dog to your home as a lifelong commitment and are surely thankful for the emotional strength they’ve given during these times of sheltering in place. What better way to spend the day than with a companion who offers tons of affection?

But the time has come to return to the workplace and although your pooch has most likely adjusted to you not giving them your full attention as you work, an even bigger change is about to take place.

Let’s help your dog with the transition.

Look for signs of stress and anxiety in your pet
Separation anxiety is one concern that many pet parents have as they prepare themselves and their dogs for a return to the workplace. It’s important to look for signs that your dog is in distress.
  • Whining
  • Drooling
  • Barking that doesn’t stop
  • Destruction of the home like chewing furniture and door frames
  • Self-harm such as incessant licking and biting at their own body
  • Having toileting accidents around the home when they were previously potty trained
  • Pacing or circling when they see you getting ready to leave
  • Shaking

As your dog transitions to you being gone during the day, look to a dog walker with Wag! as a way to give your dog a break during the day. Whether it’s a quick drop-in service or a promenade around the block, your dog will be excited to see someone who can give them a potty break and little diversion.

How to ease separation anxiety? Take your dog for a long walk before work if you can (if you can’t, call upon a local dog walker). Use dog appeasing pheromone collars or room diffusers when you are not at home. Studies show that pheromones are very effective in reducing stress in dogs. If separation anxiety is becoming a big concern or is getting out of hand, consult a veterinarian for advice as well.

Of course, avoiding separation anxiety is ideal. We’ve got ways to prep your dog for your eventual daily departure. Let’s take a look.

Re-introduce a post-pandemic routine for your dog

Dogs love a routine. When you started being home all day, that was an adjustment for your pooch. But when you return to your normal activities and they find themselves on their own for hours on end, the change may affect them even more.

Don’t wait until the back-to-work day arrives to get your dog used to the new way of things. Create a new post-pandemic routine by getting up earlier and following the same schedule you will once work calls you back again. 

Take your pooch outside to relieve their bladder upon waking, feed them their favorite breakfast, and then make time for a walk. Doing so will give your dog the opportunity to stretch their legs, get in a few sniffs and some exploration, and even tire them out somewhat if you make the walk long and brisk. 

Practice preparing your pet for your absence

Part of changing your dog’s outlook on the day involves you leaving for periods of time. They’ve had you home for months now, and you’ve been close by all day long.

Take some fresh air without your dog as a way of getting them used to your absence. Start with a 5-minute walk and gradually stretch it to an hour. Don’t forget to leave your dog a toy or two to entertain them. This will help them associate you leaving with something fun. 

Before you head out, show your dog the toys. If the toys are in the same place when you return and don’t look touched, chances are you’ll need to find something a bit more challenging to pique their interest.

Try a kong stuffed with a tasty treat, frozen overnight, and given to your dog before you go out. This provides an activity to keep your pupster busy for a while. Safety tip: If you use peanut butter as part of the mixture, read the label carefully to ensure that xylitol is not an ingredient. It is toxic to dogs!

Beat your dog's boredom, with toys

Once you start leaving your dog to go back to work, you’ll need to take steps to prevent boredom in your dog’s day. Along with the kong, food puzzle toys are a blast for dogs. Feed your dog 1/2 their breakfast as usual, take them on a walk, and give them a dog-approved, safe puzzle toy to mentally stimulate them while you are at work. 

Familiarize your pupster with these toys before you go back to work on a regular basis. Just tossing your dog a new toy as you leave for the day doesn’t work. A slow introduction and maybe a lesson on how to use the toy to dispense treats will be a good idea.

Create a dog-safe zone, a safe space to call their own

Many dogs experience anxiety or stress when left in the home without a space to call their own. Prepare a safe space your dog loves, with a cozy bed, fresh water, and some much-loved toys. This is also the perfect place to plug in the dog appeasing pheromones nearby. 

Sound is also helpful to many dogs. Play soft music when you are not home. Before you head back to work, start putting music on throughout the day. This can work well after a long walk. Your pooch may associate rest time after a promenade with quiet music. This could be to your advantage when you return to a day outside the home.

Part of providing a safe space is doing a bit of dog proofing of the home, too. In the evening before bedtime, do a quick sweep of the home, picking up the kids’ toys and shoes. Pup-proof your house by making sure cords are out of reach, plants are not accessible, and the garbage can is well secured under the cupboard. Scan the room and ask yourself, “what can my dog get into”? Whatever catches your eye should be put out of your dog’s line of sight.

Scheduled feeding

If you free-feed your dog, transition them to scheduled feeding before you return to work. Your dog will learn that you leave after breakfast and always return before the evening meal. 

Scheduled mealtimes prevent the possible weight gain that can result if your dog eats at will. Many canines will eat out of boredom and are not necessarily hungry. When you return from work, take your dog for a pee break and a meal, telling them how good they are as you place the meal in front of them.

Schedule a daytime visit

Is your dog accustomed to a mid-day play session or walk? Call on a dog walker with Wag! to give your dog the needed break and scent of fresh air during a long day without their favorite human. Set the time you’d like the walker to arrive and choose the length of time. From express to deluxe, a Wag! walk is a winner!

When you have a day off, book a local dog trainer with Wag! to give you pointers and training tips for when you walk your dog or take them to the park. One-on-one dog training will stimulate your pooch mentally. On the days they are home alone while you are at work, they’ll rest better with the mental workout they’ve had from training. Practicing what you have learned is also a fun way to spend time together.

When work takes you out of town

For many pet parents, a return to work can mean business trips. Take advantage of the dog boarding and dog sitting services available on the handy Wag! app. It’s easy to choose a local dog boarder or dog sitter with Wag!, making every trip out of town stress-free. 

Choose from the best pet caregiver for your pet and look for updates on how your dog is doing while you are away. Have a dog sitter stay at your home or give them a dog vacay at the boarder’s residence. Either way, your pup will be pleased!

Additional tips for working Pet Parents
It’s essential to watch for indications of your dog’s adjustment to your being away at work.
  • Is your dog eating normally? Has their appetite decreased?
  • Does your dog seem quiet and down in the dumps? This may be the case for the first week or so, but they should adjust, especially if you’ve taken care to work on the transition pointers we’ve outlined.
  • Is your dog having toileting accidents in the home? Or are they suddenly constipated or holding their urine? Watch for these changes and ensure they don’t happen by booking a walk with a local dog walker on the Wag! app.

The good news is, chances are your dog will adjust fine and the new routine will soon be old hat to both you and your dog! But if you have concerns about how your dog is taking the changes that come with you returning to work, consult your veterinarian for advice.