How to prepare your pooch for your return to the workplace
Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order may have meant less interaction with other people for us, but it has meant more interaction for our dogs. They have enjoyed the additional attention -- the extra walks, brushings, games of fetch and ear scratches.
As we get ready to return to our workplace, we should also prepare them for being home again by themselves for the better part of the day. The more time you have the better, but whether it is a few days or a few weeks, there are several ways to help dogs ease back into their old routine.
Create a schedule that more closely resembles your back-to-work schedule. Include times for feeding, playing, brushing and taking walks. Don't forget to include the most important activity of all -- spending time alone.
The time for feeding Fido may have changed if our mealtimes changed, too. Begin giving him his breakfast and dinner at his old feeding times. And, if treats became part of your extra time together, reduce them until they are stopped altogether.
You were probably able to spend a lot more time playing in the past couple of months, so begin limiting interactive play while encouraging him to play with his toys by himself.
Try filling a Kong with low-calorie treats or smearing some peanut butter on a favorite toy. Give him an ice cube. Purchase some fun, new toys. Keep a collection of different types of toys -- soft toys, squeaky toys, balls, etc. -- in a box so he can choose which one he would like to play with.
Of course, playtime with you is still important for your dog. Just play together at the time you normally would if you were working all day. Part of your quality time together each day should also include brushing and lots of that ear scratching!
You may not want to take him for a walk at 6 a.m. if you would rather sleep until 7 a.m., but it is important to prepare your pooch for his old routine (and you, too, for that matter). If, instead, you normally walked him after you got home from work, start taking your daily walks then.
Most dogs sleep at least 10 or 14 hours every day (as you probably noticed while spending more time at home). Older dogs and puppies sleep even more. When he is sleeping, let him nap uninterrupted, especially if it is during the time you would normally be gone.
If your dog normally spent his day in a crate, start using it again. Start with short naps in the crate, along with a treat when he comes out. Increase the time gradually. This will help him adjust to not being beside you all day.
Prepare your dog for your absence by leaving the house for a short time at first -- maybe just 10 minutes -- and increasing the duration of his time alone. If you aren't heading back to work for a couple of weeks, increase the time by just 10 to 20 minutes each day.
If you are returning to work in a few days, increase time away by an hour or so each day. If you carry a particular lunch bag or briefcase to work, take it with you when you leave.
Newly adopted dogs will be learning a new routine instead of returning to an old one and may need the most transition time. Be patient -- they have only known life with you around all the time.
If your pet seems anxious when you return to work, give him a bit of time to adjust. Most dogs will adapt quickly. If problems continue, reach out to your veterinarian.
• Diana Stoll is the Practice Manager at Red Barn Animal Hospital with locations in Hampshire and Gilberts. Visit redbarnpetvet.com, or call (847) 683-4788 (Hampshire) or (847) 422-1000 (Gilberts).