Puppy sales have boomed under the COVID-19 pandemic as people turned to dogs for companionship during social distancing times – however it has raised fears that many dogs could be left on their own at home for long periods of time as people return to office working. It is therefore important that anyone who has bought a puppy or dog considers what care their pet will need when they return to work. Dogs require company as social animals and also need to be exercised and have regular access to an outdoor space for going to the toilet. These needs should be taken into consideration and a plan in place for when lockdown restrictions are ending and life returns to normal.
To help in preparing for a return to work we have included below some animal-friendly options for caring for your dog when you are back to work, as well as advise on how to prepare your dog for longer periods on their own.
- Take your dog to work: Do you have an animal-friendly workplace? If so, what is stopping you from taking your dog to work with you? If your dog is lacking obedience, train your dog in time so that he does not disturb anyone in the office. If your office does not have a dog friendly policy, you could talk to your employer to see if this is something they would consider. There are many positive benefits of a dog-friendly workplace which include reduced stress, increase of people's cognitive abilities, increase of social interaction and counteracting depression and anxiety. Once dogs are allowed at your workplace, make sure there are some rules in place so that everyone has clear expectations and understands what is and what is not possible. Tips for good office dog rules can be found here.
- Find a dog sitter: If you cannot take your dog to work, a good option is to find a dog sitter. This might be a friend, a neighbour, a family member or a professional dog sitter. If employing a professional dog sitter make sure you check their references, that they get on well with your dog and that you are both aligned on training methods and commands, to avoid confusion for your dog. If you can’t find someone suitable talk to other dog owners, there is always someone who knows someone.
- Hire a dog walker: Today there are many professional dog walkers who can collect your dog and take them for a walk. You can choose between dog walkers who walk with only your dog and those who walk with a small group of dogs (large groups of dogs are not recommended). Again, it is important to check their references before they walk your dog. Perhaps do the first couple of walks with them to see how they manage your dog when out on a walk.
- Find a dog day care centre: If you want your dog to be cared for all day, you can choose to bring them to a 'dog-day-care' centre. While you are at work, your dog will never be alone and will have a lot of interaction with other dogs. Look for a reputable company, where the staff are trained in dog keeping and handling. They should ensure the safety in the group and take the animals' individual needs into account.
- Build up your dog friendly network: There are several options you can choose from for your dog so that they are cared for when you are back at work although some can be more expensive than others so it is advisable that you build a network of other dog owners who can support you when needed. For example, an option for dog day care might also include you and other dog owners sharing the responsibility. Perhaps each of you can work from home a few days a week and take care of each other’s dogs on these days. In a dog owning community, you have several dog friendly friends who can help each other out when needed.
- Train your dog to stay at home alone: It is fundamentally important that a dog is trained to stay home alone for short periods. During lockdown, dogs have rarely had to be on their own, and even if they had learned to be on their own in the past, they may need time to adjust again as life returns to normal. If you have a return to work date you should prepare your dog in advance by slowly reducing the amount of time you spend with them and leaving them for short periods on their own at home. You can find more training tips here.