Helping your dog adjust to your return to work

Helping your dog adjust to your return to work


With constant company and long daily walks over the past five weeks, our dogs have probably all relished the Level 4 lockdown. We also know that cats everywhere have been less than pleased with the family at home all the time.

With Alert Level 3 starting officially today, many of us will be returning to work and this means a sudden change for your pets; one they may not understand. 

Every household is different and it may be that in your house only one family member is returning to work at this point. Other family members may remain working from home, or kids are yet to return to school. Now is the time, when we have a little more freedom, to help your dog adjust to a new routine. You want this routine to closely match what it will when you return to work again.

Start now!

What’s that saying ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’? With the lockdown running for the past five weeks your dog has probably been with you 24/7 over this time (including trips to the bathroom!) but there are many small and simple ways you can begin preparing them for your return to work, especially now that we have a little more freedom in level 3:

  • Leave your dog inside while you go outside to hang out the washing or do some gardening
  • Go for a walk without your dog 
  • Get dressed as if you were leaving for work, and go pick up lunch or a coffee (ensure you stick to social distancing guidelines). 
  • Walk to the letterbox (I have a very long driveway so this is possible for me).
  • While there are restrictions on the number of people who go into the supermarket, take the whole family with you and have those not allowed in the store wait in the car.
  • Take a short drive somewhere and read a book in your car for an hour or so

In all instances, you want to leave the house in the same way that you would if you were leaving the house for work. Therefore if you give your dog a particular treat before leaving or if you leave them confined to a certain area when you are gone from the house then implement these for even small outings. If you wear a set uniform or you have a particular work bag then leave the house wearing or carrying those items. 

If you are worried or have a new puppy/young dog

New puppies or dogs who previously may have showed mild signs of separation anxiety will be the most vulnerable in this transitional period. Therefore it is really important that you begin NOW.

Additionally, for everyone that returned to work today, leaving your pet home alone completely, there are still things you can do to help make this time easier: 

Leave your dog somewhere in the house where they will be safe; where if they do get stressed they cannot destroy something that is valuable to you or dangerous to them; where it will not be a problem should they toilet while you are gone. 

If your neighbours are not returning to work, reach out to them and ask them to keep an ear out for your dog during the day and check in with them when you return home.

If you have a family member nearby who isn’t returning to work you could ask that they drop in on your dog halfway through the day. Please be very wise with health and safety if you opt for this. We have all been advised to remain within our home bubbles when not at work or school. Don’t ask your family member to travel across the city to check on your dog. Ask that your family member thoroughly cleans their hands after touching surfaces, including your dog, and wipes down anything that they touch in your home. With you returning to work you will be coming into contact with more people whereas they will not. 

Know the signs

There are a lot of unknowns in this new post-lockdown world. It is important to know the signs of separation anxiety so you can get help for your pooch immediately.

Firstly, as you begin to get ready to leave for work your pet may begin to show signs of stress or agitation – pacing or panting – or they may seem depressed prior to your departure. Your dog may begin barking and or howling within minutes of you closing the front door. 

It is very common for dogs suffering from separation anxiety to be quite destructive while you are out. This can be presented in many ways – chewing door frames or window sills, digging at doors, or destroying household items e.g. the couch. They may also try to escape – anything to get to some company. 

Dogs will often urinate or defecate out of stress/fear as well however please note if you are still toilet training a new puppy this is likely to happen anyway and on its own is not an indicator that your dog is stressed while you are gone. 

When you return home your dog may behave like it has been years since he has seen you, just like the pets of returned service men and women. 

Reach out if you need help

Separation anxiety will not go away with ‘tough love’, nor will your dog grow out of it. If you are at all worried about how your pet is adjusting to the household returning to work or school then please get in touch with our dog trainer Lacey via

Best of luck to everyone returning to work this week!