We all have those in our lives who’ve helped us make it through the pandemic — whether it was the daily walks with your partner, weekly zoom chats with your best friends, or family dinners where the dining room chairs were spaced six feet apart.
But the real stars of this now two-year-long show have been our furry companions, and it’s time they get the credit they deserve.
Throughout the pandemic, our pets have given us everyday reasons to smile — a fact confirmed by the results of a 2021 Royal Canin survey, which revealed that 70% of pet owners say their pet helps to relieve stress and worry.
So how can we give back to our pets for all they do for us? Experts at Royal Canin emphasize the importance of establishing an effective routine and offering helpful tips to use as we begin thinking about a return to in-office work and pre-pandemic life.
Survey finds that pets are the best (duh)
Studies show playing with pets can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can help reduce symptoms of anxiety (something we all know in our hearts already).
And the results of the Royal Canin survey revealed that 64% of Canadian pet owners say their pet has provided them with emotional support during the pandemic.
Additionally, the survey revealed that 66% of Canadian dog owners describe their pup as their best friend — so it’s not surprising that almost a third (29%) of Canadian pet owners say that they would be more willing to return to the office if their pet could join them.
But that’s not a reality for everyone, and as the world starts to open back up and many companies’ workplace models are trending towards hybrid, our pets are feeling the shift with us.
For many pets, especially those adopted during the pandemic, always being with their owner is the only life they know. So it’s important that as we start to return to the office and explore the idea of a hybrid working model, we make sure we create environments where our pets will continue to thrive.
How to help your pet adjust
Many factors can disrupt a pet’s routine, whether it’s a change in your work schedule, moving, travelling, or just getting back into your pre-pandemic lifestyle. Dr. Colleen Wilson, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, says that ensuring pets are comfortable alone before you leave for the office is an essential part of establishing a healthy routine.
“When owners teach their pet a positive association with their departures, it is the start to a positive association emotionally with their absence,” says Dr. Wilson. “Routine departures communicate to the pet, ‘When my owner leaves, it isn’t a big deal.'”
Dr. Wilson says that the first step is to assess your pet’s existing level of separation anxiety and make plans to ease the upcoming transition for your fur baby. She suggests that to confirm this, you audio or video record the pet when it’s alone in the home.
Next, if you notice anxiety-related behaviours such as excessive salivation, vocalization, destructive behaviours, or elimination (only when the pet is alone), start independence training. “Begin by establishing what treat or food puzzle toy leads the pet to focus its attention on it for about 15 to 20 minutes,” explains Dr. Wilson.
“Once established, the owner can start moving around the room, monitoring the pet for continued focus on the treat. Gradually, the owner can leave the room for a few seconds to minutes, all the while the animal is feeling good, focused on their treat.”
She explains that during this initial conditioning of your pet to feel good in your absence, always return to the pet while they are focused on the treat. “Because the animal is experiencing a positive emotional state in the owner’s absence, this can communicate ‘don’t worry, I am coming back,’ and makes comings and goings un-eventful.” Wilson urges that this contributes to a healthy transition in your return-to-work schedule.
Our pets do so much for us, so let’s make sure we’re returning the favour the best we can. To learn more about caring for your pet, visit Royal Canin’s website. For adorable pet content, follow @royalcanincanada on Instagram and Facebook.