Are you looking at returning to the workforce? Maybe you were out on maternity/paternity leave, or you were working from home for the past few years, or maybe you are just entering the work world outside of your home for the first time. Whatever your reason, if you have dogs, you are probably having some trepidations about leaving them and concerned about how they will get along in your absence. Will they miss you? Will they be sad? Will they be destructive? Can you get someone to walk them? Should you crate or gate them? While part of you may be looking forward to “getting back out there,” there is also a huge concern of how it may affect your dogs who once had all of your attention on a daily basis.
As with most things, dogs are smart and catch on quick. And contrary to the old adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” we actually can. But it is all in how it is done. To help dogs adjust, it takes—in a word—preparation. Here’s a few tips to help prepare you and your dog adjust to a new schedule that includes you not being home full-time:
1. All Aboard—Getting Everyone on the New Schedule
If you know what your new hours will be, do some test runs. If you need to change up their potty breaks, breakfast and dinner times, start doing so. If you work near your residence, maybe you can zip home during your lunch break, and what a terrific way to check on your dog and still take him/her out. If you work too far to visit at noon, see if you can have a family member/friend/neighbor/dog walker come by for the mid-afternoon break and potty run. By initiating the new schedule earlier than needed, it will give you and your dog time to adjust so when you start work, they will be used to the new format.
2. What About Medications?
Having a Siberian Husky diagnosed with epilepsy, medication schedules were very important for me to set up and adhere to. If your dog requires specifically timed medications, and they are different than what your new work schedule will be, begin over a period of time adjusting their administration times so it works for their dosage instructions and your new schedule. Sudden medication changes can possibly adversely affect a dog, so be sure to back up/extend the time gradually over a few days to a week so it is not a sudden change for your dog.
3. To Crate or Not to Crate
That is always a big question. Naturally, if your dogs are crate trained, then everything will be status quo. If this is something new…try it out. Get them a nice crate pad or dog blanket, too. If your dog has anxiety when crated, then close off an area for them (baby gates are great for this) and make it their safe area that includes a nice bed, a few of their favorite toys, and always fresh water. If your dog is fine with the run of the house, then that’s cool, too. You can treat them to a nice new comfy blanket for their favorite spot, whether it be on the sofa, bed, or floor!
4. Peek-a-Boo, I See You!
A great peace of mind for a dog parent who is looking at now working outside of the home is to install a video camera, whether separate or through your home’s alarm system. There are also some that are two-way, meaning you can not only see your dog in your home, but also talk to them through the video/alarm system app. (There’s one where you can even dispense treats!) Some dogs, however, may get overexcited at hearing their person’s voice, and that could be confusing or upsetting. We all know our own dogs, so use your best judgement. If your dog does get overexcited, it may be best to just silently peep in on them.
5. Visit the Vet
A good idea is to have your veterinarian check out your dog before such a big change is initiated. It’s good to be sure there are no underlying health issues that could be exacerbated by them being left home. Also, if your dog has anxiety issues, they may suggest natural calming supplements, pheromone spray or diffuser, and/or prescription medications to help keep your dog stress-free and calm.
6. Busy Toys Make Happy Dogs
Whether you crate or have your dog free roam, having busy toys available can chase away boredom and stimulate their mind. Puzzle toys with hidden treats and chew toys (a great tip is to fill a rubber one that you can pack with treats or fill it with natural no-salt added creamy peanut butter and freeze it before giving it to them. This will happily keep them occupied for a while). *Caution: Never leave your dog alone with toys or chew bones that could pose a choking hazard.
7. Safety Stickers
If you do not have these already, now is a great time to get some Pet Safety Stickers to put on the windows and doors to your residence where your pets stay. These stickers can alert emergency personnel arriving at your home that there are dogs and/or cats inside your home, along with a place for a contact phone number. The ASPCA offers a FREE Pet Safety Pack that includes the decals, as well as an Animal Poison Control Center magnet. To obtain the free kit, simply visit the site and complete their request form.
8. Who’s a Good Doggy?!
When you do return home, no matter how tired you may feel, remember your dog has been waiting all day for you. And as much as you missed them, they missed you even more! Please take a few minutes to give your dog praise and hugs—positive reinforcement for being such a good dog! Grab their leashes, and take them out on a nice walk, or let them out in the yard and engage them in some fun play. Something as simple as tossing a ball and playing Fetch can make them look forward to your return even more each day!
Dorothy Wills-Raftery is an award-winning photojournalist and author. Her canine books include EPIC Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy; the FiveSibes™ Tales children’s books: What’s Wrong With Gibson? Learning About K-9 Epilepsy and Getting Healthy With Harley; and Buddy, the Christmas Husky~Based On A True Holiday Miracle (ArcticHouse Publishing). Her internationally top blogsite is FiveSibes™ , based on her five Siberian Huskies, and includes an online encyclopedia for the Siberian Husky breed.
Her work has also appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul & Rosie the Riveter book series, Woman’s World Magazine, AmericanPet Magazine, American Dog Media, Ruff Drafts, The Sled Dogger, and Hudson Valley Paw Print Magazine. Dorothy has been awarded the prestigious Maxwell Medallion by the Dog Writers of America Association for “Excellence” for her writing, photography, and fiction. Her book EPIc Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy received the Independent Press Award for “Excellence” in the Reference Book category and the NYC Big Book Award for “Excellence” in the Animal/Pet book category. She was named “Best Author” by Hudson Valley Magazine and all four of her books were named “Best in Print” by AmericanPet Magazine.
An official International Purple Day® for (K9) Epilepsy Ambassador since 2012 and a volunteer case manager for The Wally Foundation-Canine Epilepsy, Dorothy partnered with the nonprofit Purple Day® Every Day presented by The Anita Kaufmann Foundation for her #Paws4Purple initiative, and she created the #FiveSibes #LiveGibStrong K9 Epilepsy Online Resource Library—all inspired by her epileptic Siberian Husky, Gibson, in order to help other Epi-dog families find accurate information to help their Epi-dogs.