As offices begin to reopen, and some of you begin to make trips back into the office for the first time, your furry loved ones may have a hard time readjusting. So, we put together some tips to help make the transition back to the workplace full-time, part-time, hybrid, or even just sometimes a little less stressful for your resident fur creature. Full disclosure, we’re not professional dog trainers, just people who love their pets like family…let’s be honest sometimes we love them more than our family.
It’s not their fault – The best thing you can do is understand that dogs, like most animals, are creatures of habit. This means a routine is what makes them feel safe and for the past year, staying home with you has been the only routine they know. Starting from a place of compassion will enable you to have the patience and care required for successful retraining. Just remember, you are their best friend, their whole life! Their whole world is shifting. Give them the benefit of the doubt and training will be less complicated.
Start small. – You may notice, your dog likely wants to be by you all the time. While you’re still home, create spaces where your dog can see you but is separated from you. Maybe by a small baby gate or glass door in your office. Begin creating habits that show them it’s okay not to be by you all the time. It sounds a bit harsh but it will begin to wedge the need for your constant presence.
Make your leaving routine relaxing. – We tend to spend our minutes before leaving in a panic and frenzy. This type of activity creates a whole lot of excitement and stress for your pup. They know something important is happening but don’t know how they are supposed to feel about it (if only they could talk!). Hearing the sound of keys or the zipper from coats can be a trigger for your dog, which causes the whining and barking we all know so well. Instead, take some time when you’ll be home for the next few hours and swing your keys around. This may start barking and other reactions from your dog. Rather than shush them or tell them no, just act like everything is normal. Make some more noise with your keys and then sit down on the couch for a few minutes. Make some more noise and walk to the kitchen. You may notice the dog is confused. That’s a good sign! It means that the dog is rethinking what the sound of keys or the motion of putting your shoes on means.
Create their safe space – Not all dogs do well in a crate, but all dogs need a place they feel comfortable. This may be a bed, blanket, or kennel. Make this space fun and engaging with toys and treats when you are away from them. Pro tip: Freeze peanut butter inside a Kong toy for them to enjoy while you’re gone!
Now you can leave, but not for long – This is where the real work begins. Our recommendation is to use an evening off or weekend with time to spare for this part of the training. Try to do some errands like unloading groceries but wait a little while longer than usual. When you walk back in, act as though nothing happened. If you are in a high rise, try walking down the hall and eventually take an elevator ride down by yourself to get a package. Be sure NOT to greet them with high praises and affection. (I know we are monsters for even suggesting that.) But it’s important to make coming and going a consistent and casual action.
If available to you: try an at-home camera to monitor, like a Furbo Dog Camera! This is super helpful for this stage when you need to hit the right moment of arrival before your dog gets too anxious. Some cameras have a feature to talk to your dog and even dispense treats. Which might help with your separation anxiety and guilt. Another (cheaper) option is to use two cell phones and leave one on while you listen to the audio while you are gone.
Finally – You got this! In a short time, your dog will accept you are leaving as a part of their daily routine. It’s best to start sooner than later as different dogs require different times to adjust to the transition. We hope these tips help as you return to the office and this can be an exciting new season for you and your furry best friend.
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