5 Ways Pet Owners Can Help Reduce Their Pets’ Anxiety as They Return to Work

As shelter-in-place orders begin to lift, more and more people are returning to work. It’s a time of transition, not just for us humans, but for our pet friends as well.

"Pets everywhere have thoroughly enjoyed the extra time spent with their favorite humans over the past few months," Brian Larsen, CEO of RestoraPet, a pet health supplement company in Gaithersburg, Md., said in a statement. "Just as pet parents everywhere have taken steps to ensure their pet’s well-being during quarantine, we must also prepare them for a transition back to normal life."

Larsen equates this to "back to school," when pets might begin to act out as the house goes empty after months of a full house.

"Chewing and destroying furniture, cries for attention and endless crying or barking are just some of the issues that will arise, possibly even more so for the newly adopted pets who have become accustomed to constant human companionship," Larsen said. "Preparing furry family members for this transition while we are still at home can help save us time, money and anxiety later on when we are trying to adapt to the ‘new normal.’"

Larsen provided the following tips for pet owners looking to ease the transition and reduce separation anxiety felt by their four-legged friends:

  • Disassociate certain cues from your departure. Routine cues associated with your pet being left alone, such as picking up your keys or putting on shoes, can cause your pets to behave anxiously before you even have a chance to leave the house. For this reason, it is important to disassociate your leaving from these routine tasks. This can be done by exposing your pet to these cues in various orders several times a day—without leaving.
  • Create positive associations with your departure. Doing something nice or fun for your pet, such as giving them a small, healthful treat, every time you leave the house will help them to associate your leaving with something pleasant, and thereby minimize or offset other distress they might feel.
  • Practice gradual departures. To ease separation anxiety, start slowly by only leaving your pet alone for a short amount of time at first. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends planning your absences to be shorter than the time it takes for your pet to become upset. As they become more confident in your intent to return home, you can try leaving them for longer amounts of time. Some dogs also benefit from the use of a "safe" word to reassure them that, although you’re leaving now, you will return.
  • Try a cannabidiol (CBD) supplement. CBD products include cannabinoids and terpenes that have a multitude of proven wellness benefits, such as reduced anxiety, without producing the "high" that is often associated with hemp products, according to Larsen.
  • Invest in puzzle toys. Special toys such as Kong puzzles with hidden treats inside can be a fun way to distract your pet while you are gone and will keep them from releasing their anxiety through unwanted behaviors, such as chewing furniture, barking or having accidents in the house.