Right now, cats and dogs around the country have hopefully got over their slight confusion at their owners being home for almost the entire day since the Coronavirus Lockdown came into place.
But that doesn’t mean that they are any less excited about it. In fact, there is a good chance that they are coming up to you every so often for attention, treats and belly rubs.
And you were probably giving in until you realised you were getting nothing done. After all, two-thirds of pet owners have reported feeling more content WFH as they have their furry companion with them and don’t have to worry about leaving them alone all day.
From cats walking on keyboards to dogs nudging your arm with their nose, our new co-workers are friendly enough, but when things go back to normal, it could create some further issues. You may also be one of the 9/10 usual office workers who say that actually, the WFH life is what you want to do going forward. In which case, the correct use of training treats and interactive dog toys could come in handy.
But you may also be unable to do this full-time, in which case they could develop separation anxiety or not understand why they are suddenly being left or going into doggy daycare again. It’s a strange time for us all, but your pets are included in that.
These are some tips to ensure your pets don’t get too used to having you around, which should ensure you get your work done too! As hard as it may be, you need to create some boundaries with your four-legged friends…
Don’t Give Into Demands
They are whining for a treat. To make them quiet, you give in. They bring their ball over. You get up to play with them, despite only having done two minutes work since your last adventure.
When you are at home, your pet is used to getting alllll the attention, especially if you are sat down. But they need to understand that just because you are in the living room, it doesn’t mean they have your undivided attention.
As hard as it may be, ignore them as much as possible. When they bring your ball, pretend they didn’t. If they are whining at the door for a treat, don’t pay any attention to them. If your moggy walks on your desk, grab them and place them back on the floor or in their bed.
Even saying ‘no’ could count as attention for some pets, so try your best to pretend they aren’t in the room.
Create A Separate Space
Some of you may currently be working in bed, at the kitchen table, or on the sofa. If you can, create a desk space away from where your pet usually stays during the day, such as in the kitchen if they stay in the living room. You may have to close the door to keep them away, so ignore any scratching or whining.
Remember that altering where they stay can be an upheaval too, so try not to invade their space too much. If you must be in the same room, give them their own area where they can stay to avoid them sleeping on your feet or trying to get onto your lap.
This can be especially handy for cats. They are creatures of habit, and those who are very much their own person may find it hard to have people around all of a sudden, particularly if they are used to a quiet home 8-4 and are now faced with loud kids. They need a lot of sleep, so ensure they don’t get stressed.
Keep Them Active
We are only allowed out once per day at the moment, which may be an upheaval for your dog if they are used to two or three shorter walks every day.
You should limit your time outside, of course, but try to tire your pooch out as much as possible. This could involve a game of fetch in the nearest (empty) field, or taking them somewhere new where they can make the most of the new smells and experience to tire their brain out.
You may even want to incorporate some training into the walk, or when you’re at home. Scent games or treat-based activities are a brilliant option. We have compiled a handy guide on activities to do with your dog during lockdown.
If you have a cat or small animal, you can try playing with them in a burst of energy in the hope they will have to nap afterwards…
Set Aside Attention Times
We need to create boundaries, but completely ignoring them could be stressful for them. The more that you show them you will pay attention to them on your own terms, the quicker they should learn not to bother you.
When you take your break to flick the kettle on or scroll through Instagram, give them some playtime too. Do it away from the ‘office’, so they know that when you leave, they aren’t to follow you to continue the event.
Think About Routine
You aren’t necessarily getting up at the same time, and going to bed at the same time, and you aren’t leaving the house for work, so routines are probably going out the window (as much as you try to stick to them).
So are you planning on now taking Patch for a walk at 10am every day instead of 7am? But what will happen on the day you are in the middle of something, or you’ve got a Zoom meeting, and you can’t leave the house on the dot?
Ensuring your dog doesn’t expect to be taken out, fed or played with bang on time can help you get what you need to do done, and can also reinforce that your dog needs to learn to go with your routine and not expect things at certain times or demands.
Even if you are sticking to a regular routine up until now, varying their dinnertime is an easy way to get them prepared for any changes.
However, this can differ if you have a cat. As mentioned higher up, they are creatures of habit. They can easily become stressed with changes, especially if they are used to doing their own thing during the day and now find themselves being disturbed.
So, try to keep cat mealtimes, sleeping times and everything else the same, but with dogs (who need a little bit more attention and exercise), get them used to unpredictability.