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Tips To Help Pets Transition To Staying Home Alone

Pets have enjoyed the abundance of playtime during the stay-at-home orders. But now that some people are returning to work, they may experience stress due to the change in schedules.

Working from home has been met with mixed reviews from people who’ve had to do it during the COVID-19 pandemic. But for most pets, this time has been a bonanza of extra petting, treats, and time with the people they love.

But now that businesses are opening up and people are returning to their places of work, how will these pets respond?

Samantha Steinbring is a behavior and training specialist at the Wisconsin Humane Society. She says that even pets who previously had no issues being home alone may have trouble adjusting.

Here are some tips to help pets transition to staying home alone:

1. Ease animals into new schedules

"Dogs and cats do struggle with sudden shifts in their schedules, so we do want to make sure that if we’re planning on having their daily schedule change that we keep that in mind and prepare for that," Steinbring explains.

Prepping for when you're at work or out of the house more often can be as simple as putting on your shoes and leaving just like you would normally, closing a door to simulate you not being there to play with. For dogs who are beginning to crate, she advises leaving the door open during the day and using treats to encourage them to explore the crate during the day. 

2. Make sure your pet is getting enough exercise

"One of the things we can do for our cats and our dogs is [to] make sure they are getting good exercise. The likelihood of them expressing anxiety-related behaviors will be a little lower if they are well-exercised," says Steinbring. 

Taking your dog on a walk or playing with your cat in the morning can be a crucial part of reducing stress during the transition.

3. Provide activities for when you are away

Too much stress can lead to animals digging in your couch or knocking things off tables. Steinbring says one way to minimize those behaviors is to provide activities to distract them while you're gone.

"We can provide them with those filled stuffed Kongs, with puzzle toys, with bully sticks so that they have other things to keep them busy and it hopefully minimizes the likelihood that we see those destructive behaviors," she says.

4. Consider a mid-day pet sitter or day care

Steinbring says that having a pet sitter stop in mid-day to provide some social interaction and exercise can have a huge benefit for animals. If your animal is struggling even with the mid-day stop, day care can be a good choice to improve their social interactions. 

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2016.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.