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Pandemic pets: What happens when you go back to work?

Last Updated Sep 15, 2021 at 7:44 am PDT

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Expert says there are a number of things you can do to help your pandemic pets adjust to life after you go back to work

Separation anxiety is valid, both from you and your pet, says expert

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As more remote workers transition back to the office, pandemic pets are adjusting to their new, lonelier reality.

Many of the dogs, cats, and other animals people bought over the past 18 months have been with people around pretty much all the time.

However, an animal welfare expert at UBC says there are ways to prepare for that separation and hopefully avoid too much anxiety.

Dr. Alexandra Protopopova, an assistant professor at the animal welfare program, says this could mean leaving your dog at home alone bit by bit, for example when you go shopping or on errands, with the ultimate goal of gradually increasing the periods of separation.

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She says you also might want to adjust the number of walks your pet gets in a day to match your back-to-work schedule.

However, some people don’t get to have a gradual transition back to the office. For a more abrupt transition, Protopopova says enlisting in the help of a friend or neighbour can be another option, as are dog-walking or other services.

“Unfortunately, this change is tough for many dogs, and especially for the pandemic puppies, since they have not yet had to learn how to be away from you,” says Protopopova, who admits it’s totally valid if you, too, are feeling a bit of separation anxiety from your pet.

“Take it seriously, and be open to discussing the effect it might be taking on your mental health with a professional or someone you trust.”

When it comes to getting your pet used to life without you around all the time, Protopopova says planning ahead is key, if you can do so.

“You want to imagine your ‘back to normal’ life and then work backwards from that.”