Post-lockdown tips for pet owners

Are you, like many other loving pet parents, worried that your pet will suffer being alone all day once you go back to work after the lockdown has ended? You’ve spent so much time with him, playing games or just ‘chillaxing’ at home. Behaviourist Samantha Walpole shares some post-lockdown tips to make the transition easier.

Coping at home

She says that the good news is that most pets will cope better on their own than we think. “Most dogs sleep for the better part of the day while we are at work, and they will most probably return to their old routine. Most dogs will actually be fine while we’re gone. The dogs we should be worried about, are those who have a history of separation distress. It is best to get help from a behaviourist for them,” advises Samantha.

Identifying separation distress

She says that the typical signs that dogs suffer from separation distress include abnormal behaviour, such as destruction of items or distress vocalising. “This is when the dog howls, or barks, barks, pauses, and then repeats this several times. When he pauses, he actually listens for any sounds. Ask your neighbour to let you know if he or she hears anything that can be described as distress calling. Alternatively, install a camera to monitor your dog for any signs,” advises Samantha.

She adds that this is a very serious condition, which means that your dog needs help as soon as possible.

Beforehand

Samantha says that, prior to the end of the lockdown, there are a few things that you can do to ease your dog into the new routine:

  1. Mock leave Pretend that you are going somewhere by going through the normal rituals – take your car keys and your handbag, lock other doors, and then exit the house – even if you have to sit in your car for a while.
  2. Go shopping When you go shopping, also go through the same routine as you would to go to work. Your dog will get used to the fact that you will return.
  3. Alone time Do some things alone, without your dog. Instead of calling him to join you to do a certain activity, leave him to do what he was busy doing.
  4. Put up a barrier Use a baby gate, or close some doors, so that he isn’t in your presence every minute of the day. This will also help him to get used to being on his own again.
  5. Play games Play hide-and-seek or find the treats with your dog, during which you disappear out of his sight for a while. He’ll get used to you showing up later again.

She adds that it is more important to allow our dogs to relax on their own than it is to entertain them all day long. “Also, try to stick to the ‘old’ routine while in lockdown – keep to the same feeding time, sleeping time and playtime you had in place before the lockdown,” concludes Samantha.