To say we’re living in uncertain times would be an understatement. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are looking for comfort and companionship to combat fear and isolation, especially for those who are working or studying all day from home. So, it’s no surprise that pet adoption rates have skyrocketed throughout the pandemic.
Dogs make wonderful companions, but nowadays many four-legged friends aren’t just being utilized as family pets or a reason to go for a walk in the mornings. Rather, they’re being used as emotional support animals. There is a difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog, too — a service dog has to receive special training to complete a specific job, while emotional support dogs are, as you might expect, more or less a constant companion for their owner. They are even sometimes recommended by crisis counselors to help individuals manage different types of crises, including the current social unrest going on in the country, or the impact of the pandemic.
No matter your circumstances, if you’re working or studying from home now more than ever and missing out on some comfort, activity, and excitement of your old day-to-day life, it’s safe to say a dog can help provide that! Especially if you already have a partner in crime, there are a number of things you can do to make sure the transition from the old 9-5 crate time to 9-5 remote work time is an easy and exciting transition for both of you.
Make the Transition Smooth For Both of You
Anyone who has had to make the transition from daily commutes to the office to suddenly doing all of their work from home knows there is a transition period. But to assume only you felt the pressures of the transition is silly — obviously, your dog probably noticed too!
Not only are you probably not getting up at the same time, you might have shifted walk times, as well as whether or not you slip your pup into a crate for the afternoon, close them out of the office when you need to be on a video call, or something else. Your furry friend might not exactly know what’s going on, and might even feel confused or scared — so it’s important that you show them lots of love, attention, and slowly help them to acclimate to the new normal without them feeling like there’s some sort of punishment happening. After all, while dogs might not be as sensitive to change as cats, they can still experience feelings of stress when a daily routine changes suddenly — and in a big way. Even more, after they’re used to you being home all the time, they can develop separation anxiety as soon as you do leave again, even if it’s just for a trip to the grocery store.
Some tips for helping your dog acclimate to the new normal include:
- New scheduled playtimes, including regular walks during the day when otherwise you might have been in the office.
- Keep your dog occupied in new ways, including complex puzzle toys or other forms of stimulation.
- Make sure they have plenty of food and water so they’re not tempted to interrupt during a video call.
- Offer them a cozy bed or spot to lay where they won’t distract you.
Keeping Yourself and Pup Safe, Healthy, and Focused
Many people have a new, existing, or reignited goal to stay healthy and safe as this pandemic continues to rage on, especially those who are suddenly working or studying remotely and have had their routines disrupted. No longer are gyms open to the public, no longer can you go to the local coffee shop for a healthy breakfast on the way to the office — all of that has to happen at home or outside. Thankfully, having a dog makes it easier to distract yourself from stress, and even easier to begin new healthy habits that benefit both of you.
One of the easiest ways to stay physically active and reduce stress is to go for a walk with your dog each day. Even better, by having a new at-home schedule, you can be pickier about your walk times. Are there more people than you can count at the park at your normal 5 PM? Start going a little earlier in the afternoon. Maybe you like walking around your neighborhood, but evening traffic makes it dangerous? Now you can enjoy mid-morning walks without worrying about a bad driver ruining your day.
With that said, if you plan on taking more walks in general, this is the perfect time to train your dog not to bite, just in case you come across an unfamiliar furry friend. You can establish good behavior through socialization and responsible play. If you have extra time on your hands while you’re at home, it’s a good time to work on any behavioral issues your dog may be dealing with. Even if your dog is well-behaved, others out walking with their owners might feel threatened or provoked, or may attack you or your pooch for no reason! In those cases, you may need to consult an attorney for help. But don’t let that keep you from spending quality time outside!
Making the Return to Work
For many, the world of constant remote work will eventually come to an end, and there will be a mass-exodus from home back to the office. For some, that switch back to normal couldn’t come sooner — but for others, the draw of remote work is just too strong, and they would rather continue their days in the comfort of their own home. In the latter group, you might not be surprised to know, most likely sits your dog.
If you’re one of those who already know there will be a return to the office at some point, it’s good to keep in mind that there will have to be a slow transition for both you and your dog in order to reverse the new-normal of working from home all the time. Some suggestions for acclimating your dog back to time apart include:
- Start spending more time away from home, even if it isn’t by going to the office. Take longer trips to the store, visit the local park by yourself for a walk, grab a coffee and catch up on some reading, just to give your dog a chance to re-acclimate to spending some time alone.
- Provide plenty of exercise, especially at first, that encourages your dog to spend more of his time alone taking naps and relaxing. This will also help to ease the physical anxiety they might feel during separation.
- Don’t be anxious, yourself! Your dog can sense when things are changing, or when you’re feeling nervous, too — so be sure to practice meditation and relaxation techniques on yourself, as well.
Acclimating to a New Day-to-Day
Just being with your four-legged friend regularly can not only help to combat feelings of isolation but bring a little bit of normalcy into your new day-to-day. Dogs get stressed and anxious just like humans do, after all. Often, they can even pick up on the feelings of their owners. So, let your dog be your emotional support during this strange time of life and utilize new aspects of your remote routine to take advantage of new activities, and you might just be surprised at how much support you’re giving them during this transition, in return.