Helping Your Pets Adjust While You Return to Work

If you work remotely, have a pet-friendly workplace, or have taken a significant amount of time off of work, you’ve had the luxury and joy of spending your days with your pet—and your pet has gotten used to spending their days with you. But if you get a new job, can no longer work remotely, or decide to rejoin the workforce, that may not always be the case.

For humans, many aspects of life continually change—including our work—and it’s easy for us to understand these changes. However, it isn’t always as easy for our pets. Many pets thrive on consistency, and any changes to their usual routine can be off-putting, confusing, and even upsetting.

To keep your pet happy and healthy during this transition, you have to spend time training them so they understand that although you’re going back to work, you will always return home to them. 

Ways to Help Your Pet Adjust Before Returning to Work

Ideally, you can begin the training process before you start heading back to work. Not only will this give your pet some time to adjust to your new normal, but it may also provide you some peace of mind to know that your pet will feel comfortable while you’re gone.


Slowly Introduce Them to Your New Work Routine

If possible, create and slowly introduce your new routine to your pet before actually starting your new job. Do the same activities—at the same time and in the same order—each morning to help your pet get acclimated. For instance, you could wake your dog up at a consistent time every day before you feed them, take them for a walk, and leave for the day. That way, your pet will be comfortable with their new routine and may have an easier time with the transition when you do begin working.


Practice Independence Exercises

Similarly, start teaching your pet to be more independent. Have them play or relax in another room in your home so they can get used to doing these activities on their own.

Give them valuable rewards, such as their favorite treat or a new toy, to keep them engaged and create a positive experience. That way, they can learn how to entertain themselves without your full attention (though you should still supervise them when they have a toy to the best of your abilities). You can also give them these high-value rewards t before or after work to help them feel less stress while you’re gone.

As they adjust, increase the amount of time they spend alone. Try to do this gradually, working up to longer periods apart. Remember to always give your pet some kind of reward to teach them that this is a good thing and you’ll be coming home later. If your pet shows signs of stress or separation anxiety, backtrack a bit until they appear more comfortable. You can then work your way back up, slowly but surely, to more intensive independence exercises.


Desensitize Your Pet to Leaving Cues

When getting ready to head out, don’t make it obvious to your pet that you’re about to leave. Your pet will pick up on your leaving cues, such as putting on your shoes or picking up your keys. It may be apparent that you’re going to be gone for an extended time if you need to wear a uniform or pack special gear for work.

To desensitize your pet to these cues, go through the typical motions of getting ready, but don’t go anywhere. If your pet can’t always tell when you’re leaving, they may not get as stressed or upset when you do.

Further, when you do leave, don’t make it a big deal for your pet. Avoid over-the-top goodbyes and enthusiastic hellos when you return. If you seem upset or stressed, your pet will likely feel the same way. By staying calm and collected, you can teach your pet that they have nothing to worry about and encourage them to display the same behavior.


Dedicate a Safe Area for Them

Create a dedicated space in your home for your pet. It can be a playpen or crate, a room, or an entire portion of your house. It doesn’t necessarily matter what you choose, as long as it’s an area where your pet will be safe in your absence.

Set up this area with everything your pet needs to be comfortable. Ensure they have access to essentials, including water and a spot to sleep. They may also need potty pads or an area to go to the bathroom if you’ll be gone for extended periods or your pet isn’t fully potty trained. Always consider your pet’s specific needs and preferences when creating and curating their space.


Work on Crate Training

If you choose to use a crate for your pet’s safe space, you also need to focus on crate training. Their crate should be a refuge that your pet feels at home in. If your pet isn’t used to a crate or doesn’t like being in one, it may not be the best option for them.

Similar to independence exercises, crate training requires continued patience and effort. Start small, such as putting them in the crate for a few minutes while you’re in the room, and work up to longer periods of time spent in the crate. You can even work independence exercises into your crate training to maximize the benefits of your training. 

Keeping Your Pet Safe and Calm When You Are In the Office

There are additional measures you can take to help your pet stay happy and safe when you go to work. Keep in mind that not every strategy will work for every animal. Don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work; instead, continue to experiment to figure out what works best for you and your pet.


Make Sure They Get Plenty of Exercise

Whether you go for a long walk or have an indoor play session, make sure your pet enjoys some exercise before you leave for work every day. Not only does exercise and activity keep them healthy, but it also tires them out. This will help your pet stay calm when you leave and help them to relax or rest while you’re gone for the day.


Consider Dog Daycare

If you have a dog, daycare is also an option to keep your pup entertained and supervised while you’re at work. You can take comfort in the fact that your dog is likely grateful to receive some extra attention and has a chance to socialize with other dogs. At the end of the day, they’ll be tired and happy to relax with you.

From home style to board and train, there are several different types of daycare to choose from. Each facility has its own requirements regarding vaccinations, temperament, and spaying and neutering. For instance, some facilities may not allow dogs who have not been neutered, while others simply require dogs to wear a diaper or wrap while they are in heat.


Ask Someone to Check on Them

If dog daycare isn’t available to you, have someone visit your home and check on your pet in the middle of the day. Your pet will still have to spend a significant amount of time alone, but a mid-day visitor will likely be a welcome break.

You can either find a pet sitter or ask a friend, family member, or neighbor to come to check on your pet. Give clear instructions about what you want your pet sitter to do during this time, such as taking your dog for a long walk or making sure your cat’s water bowl is full. Be specific and detailed so your pet has everything they need to be comfortable until you get home.


Have an Emergency Plan in Place

Take some time to think about how you would handle an emergency. Write down instructions and share them with someone else (perhaps your pet sitter or a neighbor) so they can handle the situation if you are unable to leave work. This should include your vet’s contact information and the location of the nearest veterinary hospital.

Though your pet will likely be safe while you’re at work, look into purchasing a pet camera so you can keep an eye on them. This will allow you to respond to any emergencies more quickly, as well as provide insight into how your pet behaves when they’re alone.

If your pet is calm and relaxed, you can take comfort in that knowledge. If they appear anxious, you can make note of their specific behaviors and address them later. Finally, regardless of what measure you take, don’t hesitate to speak to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s behavior or notice any persistent signs of distress. Your vet is a useful resource who can help both you and your pet overcome the challenges of your return to work.