New Job? How to Flawlessly Adjust Your Pet to Your Work Schedule
Whether you’re going back to work after a break, switching from part-time to full-time or changing your work hours, here are some helpful tips to help your pet adjust with you.
BY REBEKAH OLSEN
Pets, especially dogs, are sensitive to change.
A new work schedule, daylight savings time and even your son leaving for college can throw off their daily groove. Adjusting to a new schedule is hard enough for us humans, but how do you adjust your pet?
My mom called last night upset her otherwise calm and well-behaved rescue, Sophie, destroyed their couch cushion while she was at work.
She’s a teacher and recently went back to work from a break for the holidays. Sophie wasn’t handling the sudden separation well.
I gathered a few tips to help my mom (what are daughters for, anyway?) and you, flawlessly adjust your pet to your new work schedule or a change in your routine.
Identify the changes your pet will experience
A few weeks before you head back to work, make a checklist of changes your pet will experience when your new routine begins. For example:
Who will leave the house and when?
What time will your pet’s meal be served?
What time will your pet get a bathroom break?
What time will you exercise your pet?
What hours will they be alone?
When you have an idea of what changes you’ll be making to your pet’s schedule, you can slowly transition her—following the tips below—without any stress or anxiety.
Practice leaving and returning routines
Ask your family members to practice their new routine of leaving and returning to the house a few weeks before the big transition. Grab the keys, put on your shoes, walk out the door, warm up the car, etc.
You don’t have to leave the house, just walk outside and return quietly a few moments later. Your pet will learn those behaviors don’t always mean she’s about to be left alone.
Ten minutes before you leave the house and for ten minutes after you return, ignore your pet and perform your routines without fanfare. This cuts down on the chances of that dreaded separation anxiety.
Create a safety cue for leaving time
If your pet is prone to separation anxiety, create a safety cue, or a word or action that tells your pet you’ll be returning soon. You’ll only use this cue when you leave the house.
Choose a fun or unique phrase; such as “Later gator!” or an action, like leaving a peanut butter-filled Kong in his crate.
Practice makes perfect. Perform or say the cue, then leave for only a few minutes. Slowly, lengthen the amount of time you’re gone over a period of a few days.
If you leave for longer than your pet can handle, the cue will lose its safety value, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to positively reinforce the cue.
Move mealtime in increments
If your new routine affects your pet’s feeding schedule, move their mealtime in 15-minute increments per day, whether earlier or later.
For example, if her normal feeding time is 5:30 p.m. but you won’t be home till 6 p.m. now, then move her feeding time to 5:45 p.m. the first two days, then 6:00 p.m. the next two and 6:15 p.m. thereafter.
Your pet has an inner time clock and will beg and plead for her food, but don’t give in! Ignore your pet or walk away from her until it’s dinnertime. She’ll survive, I promise.
(Re) crate train your pet
If your pet becomes destructive because of separation anxiety, you may need to introduce or re-introduce her crate. Trainers say a crate is where your pet is the happiest and feels safest. It also keeps your furniture intact.
You can check out this article to learn tips on how to positively crate-train your pet.
Once your pet adjusts to the new schedule, you can reintroduce her to having the run of your home (if that’s your thing).
Maintain your schedule... even on the weekends
Once you’ve established and practiced your new schedule, maintain, maintain, maintain. Your pet relies on a consistent schedule and doesn’t understand the difference between Monday and Saturday.
Of course, you’ll may want to take your dog to the park on Saturday or sleep in on Sunday with kitty cat, but try to stick to their feeding and bathroom break schedule at the very least.
Every pet is different, but if you follow these basic steps you can help him or her transition flawlessly. Remember, exercise plays a very important role in the happiness and well being of your pet. A local doggie daycare can help wear off nervous energy!
If your pet is stimulated both mentally and physically, he’ll be less likely to exhibit destructive or anxious behaviors.
Have any tips for transitioning your pet to a new schedule? SHARE with us in the comments below!