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6 Tips For Getting Your Dog Ready For Your Return To The Office

As people get back to in-person work, it may be a difficult transition for dogs and their owners. One tip from a veterinarian: Don't make a big deal about leaving and coming back home.
Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR
As people get back to in-person work, it may be a difficult transition for dogs and their owners. One tip from a veterinarian: Don't make a big deal about leaving and coming back home.

Updated May 26, 2021 at 12:36 PM ET

With their owners working from home during the pandemic, many dogs have gotten used to having their best friends around all the time. But with offices reopening, some pups and their owners might be in for a rough adjustment.

Even if you want to hire a pet sitter to help fill your dog's day, it may be difficult to find one. Now that many humans are starting to return to the office, those sitters have more work than they can handle.

So what should you do to get your dog ready for your return to commuting and long hours away from them?

Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, offers six tips in a Morning Edition interview with NPR's Rachel Martin.

1. Get your dog ready for the new routine.

Preparing is the No. 1 thing. So if we can ease into it a little bit, try to get into the new routine slowly, that's going to do the most for us. So if you know that you're going to be leaving the house every morning at 7 a.m., let's get into that normal daily routine. And you don't have to be gone all day. You can be gone for initially a half hour to an hour, just getting used to that.

But then also paying attention to your pet to see is there evidence that there could be anxiety coming on? There's going to be a lot of pets that are honestly going to be able to go right through this without even noticing a bump in the road. And there will be others that might need some additional help.

2. For your health and Rover's, walk him before and after work.

Walking is still good for us and it's good for them. And I do tell people a tired pup usually is a happy pup. So if you can start your morning a little bit earlier, take them for a walk, get that energy out of them.

And again, if it's nice after a longer day, I know we're tired, but hook up that leash and take them for a walk and it'll decompress us and I betcha they're going to love it as well.

3. Dogs have gotten used to on-demand, unlimited water and food. So try to set your dog up with regular watering and feeding.

I do think that they should have access to fresh water throughout the course of the day so that they don't get dehydrated. I recommend for my own patients a meal-feeding situation that's usually aligned with when they need to go out. But that would be something definitely to talk with your veterinarian about to find out, are there any health concerns about your individual pet that you need to be concerned about? [In addition to dog care services] there's ... automatic feeders. There's ones that hook up to smartphones nowadays. So there's any number of ways to go about doing that.

4. Don't make a big deal about leaving home and when you return.

What a lot of people do is they get very excited talking to their pet about, 'Oh, they're going to work. It's OK. I'll be back in a little bit." And they get very hyper and very excited — the people do as well as the pet. And then they close the door and they take off and then they make a big event when they come home too. Try to keep it as low-key as possible, hopefully trying to keep yourself breathing and calm because then our pets will definitely feed off of that as well.

5. Look for signs your dog isn't coping well with the change in their day.

I think you would see increased panting in some of them. You may hear increased vocalization. They may become more destructive chewing on things that they haven't done in the past. They may become a little more clingy, right at your side all of the time. So look for differences with respect to that.

6. Don't feel too guilty about being away all day.

A little bit of guilt is OK, but realize that you're supplying them with room and shelter and love and so that should override that. And then take time when we get home after a day. Our pets will help us decompress because it's going to be stressful for us at times too, right? Going back to work and everything else that has to go with it. So utilize it, lean on each other, but make it a healthy relationship.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

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