Were you one of the thousands of Canadians who bought or adopted a new furry friend this pandemic?
If so, your pet may be feeling some anxiety if you’re returning to work and school this fall and are no longer around 24/7 for your new sidekick.
Alexandra Protopopova, assistant professor at the University of B.C.’s animal welfare program is feeling similar concerns over her own pups and has some tips to ease the transition.
“Many of us stayed at home for so long and have constantly been in very close proximity to our companion animals – and they have also adjusted to this,” Protopopova said. “For some who got pandemic puppies, this continuous proximity might be all that they know.”
Protopopova recommends trying to gradually stretch out you return to work, if you have that option.
“You want to imagine your ‘back to normal’ life and then work backwards from that,” she said. “This could mean leaving your dog at home when you go shopping or on errands with the ultimate goal of gradually increasing the periods of separation.”
Protopopova recommends leaving someway for the pet to occupy themselves with, whether it’s a puzzle feeder, a slow automatic feeder or a food-stuffed toy.
If you’ve already returned to the office and can’t smooth out the transition for your pet, it could be a good idea to see if a neighbour could come walk y our pet midday or hire a dog walker. If problems persist however, it could be a good idea to involve an animal behaviour specialist.
“Unfortunately, this change is tough for many dogs, and especially for the pandemic puppies, since they have not yet had to learn how to be away from you,” she said.
And your pup might not be the only one feeling separation anxiety;
“t’s valid, take it seriously, and be open to discussing the effect it might be taking on your mental health with a professional or someone you trust,” Protopopova said.
If you’re facing other pet-related challenges, like being unable to afford food or other pet necessities, don’t be afraid to reach out to a local animal shelter for help.
“Research continuously shows that people surrender their companion animals for financial and other human-related reasons, and this is often a hugely emotional ordeal since no one takes up an animal with the plan to give it up,” she said. “If you are in this position, I’d encourage reaching out to a local animal shelter about what support they can give you, since some offer low-cost resources, food donations, financial assistance, and behavioural help, depending on your circumstance.”