Longer walks, extra play-time, around-the-clock companionship – if you’re one of the +12 million Americans that welcomed a new pet to the family since the pandemic began, you’ve likely fallen into a routine that can seem next-to-impossible to break for your four-legged friend. But, as the world reopens, leaving your stay-at-home lifestyle in the past is inevitable.
So how can you keep your furry friend happy and well-adjusted to your post-pandemic lifestyle? Read on for our top tips to create a routine that will keep their tails wagging until they can greet you back at the door at the end of the day.
1. Skip the Snooze Button
When your commute consists of a leisurely walk across the room to your at-home office, you (and your pet!) can afford to snooze a few extra minutes. But if you’re no longer available to attend an impromptu morning walk or play sesh, your pet will need a little extra care in the morning, meaning every minute counts!
Plan a wake up time and try to keep it consistent (yes, even on weekends!) so your pet can learn the new morning routine and adjust to it with you.
2. Get Up, and Get Moving
Experts recommend at least one 30-minute walk each day for dogs, and two 15 minute play sessions for cats and dogs each day. From long commutes to post-work happy hours, fitting in that exercise for your pet can seem like a challenge.
If your afternoon and evening schedule can be unpredictable, try and fit in a brisk walk or play session before heading out the door to help your pet burn off some energy and anxiety prior to being left home alone for long hours – your pet (and your mental health!) will thank you.
3. Invest in Interactive Toys
To help keep your pets busy and fight off boredom throughout the day, keep a few interactive toys around (check out a few of our favorites here!). Just be sure they’re safe for your pet to play with unsupervised to avoid any injuries or choking hazards.
4. Keep Calm
Your pets can feed off your mood, meaning if you’re stressed about leaving the home, they can begin to experience those same feelings of anxiousness as you prepare to leave.
To keep the vibe in the home calm for your pets, try your best to remain relaxed as you get ready to walk out the door, and perhaps give your pet a small treat right before you leave so they can begin to associate you leaving with something positive.
5. Hire Helpers
As a general rule of thumb, once dogs reach six months or older, they usually “hold it” for up to six hours. However, even the most mature mutt shouldn’t be left home alone for longer than six – eight hours without a chance to go out for a bathroom break and some exercise.
If your days start early and end later in the evening, consider hiring a local dog walker or two (we love affordable apps like Wag! or Rover) to check in mid-day and offer your pet some relief.
Remember, pets thrive on routine — it helps them learn what to expect, which makes them feel safe. As you spend more time back out in public and less time glued to your couch, your pet will surely miss you, but it’s important to know the difference between minor separation anxiety and a full-blown medical condition.
As pets adjust to a new routine, veterinarians recommend pet parents look out for changes in behavior, like going to the bathroom where they shouldn’t, acting out, exhibiting changes in mood or behavior, or not eating their food. Be sure to keep your vet in the loop and discuss medication options if their behavior doesn’t change for the better.