A new normal
For quite a few weeks now many of us have found ourselves at home more than usual – working from home, furloughed, self-isolating; while we all follow the government’s advice to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.
Restrictions look like they are about to ease and more people will be going back to working outside their home. It won’t be quite like it was before ‘lockdown’ but it will be a new normal that might involve different hours of work or just a few days at the place of work followed by a few days working from home. There is probably going to be several days warning ahead of this as there is much to do to make sure workplaces are safe and the return does not cause another peak of infection.
Meantime, our pets have got used to us being with them much more – although some cats have clearly been concerned about this invasion of their palaces and are preparing to hoist the flags when the staff go out again and their privacy is restored. The dogs, however, could not have been happier to have their pack around them and are likely to be bereft when it all comes to an end.
Think back to when your dog first came to live with you as a puppy or as a rescue of indeterminate age. How did you get them used to the routines of the household? In particular how did you prepare them for the routine of being left alone for a few hours while you went to work outside the home? You need to revisit that planning now.
Some dogs won’t be phased at all, much like their feline friends they may be glad of the peace and quiet again. You can tell those by their ability to take themselves off to other areas of the house away from you. Be aware however, that an elderly dog who coped well in their youth maybe more anxious and needy, especially if they have developed arthritis or other conditions that cause them discomfort. A sudden shift in routine that dogs perceive as negative could easily stir up separation anxiety behaviours such as barking and howling, destructive behaviour, pacing, weeing and worse in the house; they may even start eating their own poo.
So, now is time to plan ahead and ease them into another change of routine and let them get used to time on their own again. Even if you are still at home during the lead up to the new normal you need to find ways of leaving your dog alone for periods of time, getting them used to it by perhaps spending time in different parts of your home, particularly if you are following a TV or online exercise routine – they really do not need to witness that! Stop taking them on every outing to the local shop or pharmacy and after their walk take your own exercise outside the home without them running alongside you.
If you used a dog walking service such as VIPPIES when you worked you should think about re-introducing that routine while you are still at home. During lockdown VIPPIES have continued to look after the dogs of keyworkers and of those who are housebound for other reasons, so they have honed their ability to do this safely and successfully with good social distancing and hygiene requirements observed. Jade, Jake and Sheena have regular health and safety briefings to keep abreast of best practice and the legalities of the measures to keep us all safe and well.
If it is not appropriate or practical to re-introduce your walker until you actually return try to develop a routine that reflects what will happen. So, get out of your pyjamas into your work clothes, say ‘goodbye’ and work in a different room from your dog if you can to establish the routine of absence. You could also aim to walk your dog at the time when they would normally have a walker call.
When you do head back to your place of work keep the departure calm and no nonsense so you don’t over stimulate your dog. Consider leaving them a treat ball or similar as you head off to give them something to do while they settle down to your absence. Some dogs like a radio left on in the background to give them company. Even if you have more than one dog or they have a cat for company remember, they are all individuals and may react very differently. Finally, remember, as the weather gets warmer, double check the water bowls are topped up and there is access to a cool spot in the house. Whatever you do, if you have a conservatory keep it shut so they can’t get in there – it can be as bad as a hot car; and draw the curtains on any south facing windows.
Hopefully our dogs will soon get the hang of the new normal in the same way that we will, and maybe it won’t be long before we can take them to the coast or for a woodland walk again!