Pets, like their humans, had to adjust during the pandemic. Like Ollie, they got used to people being at home most of the time. But now, with COVID-19 vaccinations rolling out across South Florida, it’s time to prepare them for your return to normal. Our Melissa Marrero has tips to help with the transition.
With the pandemic changing the way of life for over a year, a large number of people saw an opportunity to bring a pet into the family.
Research shows the overall percentage of US households owning pets increased up to 56% in 2020.
“We did see a lot of interest in pet adoption,” said Stephanie Rodgers, manager of behavior training at Humane Society of Broward County.
But as COVID-19 restrictions ease, adults are returning to the office and children will be returning to school. During this time, your pet has likely grown accustomed to having someone at home with them.
According to Rodgers, it may take time for your pets to adjust.
“You’re probably going to expect to see some normal elevated stress levels. Dogs normally will stress when routine changes. They might not eat as well as they normally would. They might cry, bark or vocalize a little bit more. They might also backtrack a little bit with their normal house training schedule or routines. You might also see sometimes low level destructive behavior like chewing up a sock, a shoe or a book,” she said.
Some pets might show minimal signs of stress, while others may suffer from severe stress or even separation anxiety.
“Separation anxiety in its essence is a severe phobic reaction of being left alone. A lot of these dogs will literally smash through windows trying to escape their homes. They’ll dig up the carpet or the doorway trying to escape to get to their owners,” she said.
If you’re anticipating a change in routine, Rodgers said it’s best to slowly acclimate your pet to the new schedule in small increments. Rodgers also suggests owners find fun distractions for their pets while they’re gone.
“A kong or other food toys, something the animal can play with. Environmental manage is extremely important. That’s one of the things you can do in your home to facilitate an easier less stressful transition. So things like dap or dog appeasing pheromone, it’s a synthetic pheromone that’s designed to reduce stress. Dietary supplements can be great way to go,” she added.
When you return home, your pet will likely be overly happy to see you. Rodgers says resist the temptation to give them a pat on the back or any attention. Wait until they settle down.
“Keep your leaving and coming home low key. You don’t want to have a big excitement, you want to keep it low key because the more aroused you get, the more aroused your pet will get,” she said.
If you notice your dog is experiencing severe separation anxiety, Rodgers suggests you hire a private dog trainer to help resolve those issues.
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