Five top tips to help prepare your dog for a change in routine

Government restrictions throughout the pandemic meant that many pet owners spent more time at home with their dogs than they normally would.

With the current working from home guidance now lifted, some pet owners will be preparing for a change to their routines, as a hybrid approach to working between home and the office becomes more popular. This means our canine companions may be faced with the need to adapt to spending more time alone.

Dr Karen Heskin, Head of Pets at Pets at Home, said: “Many pets thrive with predictability and can find a change of routine unsettling. Regardless of whether you have an older or a younger pet, it’s possible they will become stressed or anxious when left alone for longer periods.

“There are some things you can put in place, and skills you can teach, that will help your pet get used to the idea of you not always being around, whether it’s going back to the office or just out and about. It’s important you introduce these as early as you can to help them feel more confident being home on their own.”

To help prepare your dog for a change in routine, experts from Pets at Home have shared their top five tips on how to make the transition as smooth as possible:

Watch out for signs of separation anxiety

All dogs are different, so naturally some will find it more difficult to adapt  than others.

As your pet can’t tell you they feel separation anxiety, it’s important that you look out for certain clues that may suggest they don’t like being left alone.

These can often include changes in behaviour when they spot you are getting ready to go out, making noises when you leave, unexpected toilet accidents and destructive behaviour.

Introduce a strict routine

Predictability can help to reduce stress in dogs, so it’s a good idea to have a daily routine in place that your dog is familiar with.

Some things you should consider, include:

  • Keep to the same hours – Make sure you stick to the same times when getting up and going to bed. This way your pet will know when they’ll be let in and out or have their last toilet break of the evening.
  • Mealtimes – Stick to regular mealtimes for your dog to stop them from wondering when dinner is going to appear.
  • Regular exercise – Try taking your dog on a walk or letting them out at the same times. That way they won’t be anxious and wondering when they will be allowed out.
  • Remind them of their independence

Most dogs have the skills to be left alone safely, whether you’re just in the next room or when you leave to go out.

Try reminding them of their independence by spending time in a different room, or pop them in their crate for a while.

Once they are comfortable with this, practice leaving them alone for longer periods. Just make sure they always have plenty of safe toys to keep them occupied, and a comfy place to rest. A little background noise can help too. Pets at Home has created a set of three Spotify playlists designed to help keep dogs calm which can be left on when you go out.

If your dog is very young and has never been left before, remember that they’re likely to need to go to the toilet more frequently than older dogs. When teaching them about being left, limit their time alone and, where possible, time it for when they’ve had a play and would normally be going for a nap.

Don’t make a big fuss when you leave or come back to your dog

Dogs can predict when we’re about to leave them by spotting subtle cues and signals we’re giving out.

It’s important you don’t make a big fuss when you leave or come back to your pet, as that only makes it more rewarding.

Instead, greet them calmly once you’ve got indoors and have put your keys away. If you make leaving and returning less of an event, it can help pets to feel more relaxed.

Keep your dog occupied

Separation-related issues aren’t always caused by anxiety at being left – some pets get bored on their own and may entertain themselves by taking apart your soft furnishings or chewing off your cupboard handles.

To help avoid this, be sure to supply your four-legged friend with plenty of boredom-busting puzzles, toys and treats before leaving them for long periods of time.

If you are seeing signs of separation-related behaviour in your dog and would like some support, the teams at Pets at Home or Vets4Pets, both part of the Pets at Home family, will be able to help.

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