Ready to get back to work? Your pets may not be; Cornell professor has tips on preparing pets for post-quarantine life

Coronavirus

ITHACA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — If you’ve been working remotely, your pet has probably gotten used to having you around 24/7. It’s a dog’s dream, but when you go back to work, something else may kick in: Separation anxiety.

“The dog, in particular, may react by barking for long periods of time, scratching at the door, failing to be housebroken,” said Katherine Houpt, Professor Emeritus of Behavioral Medicine at Cornell University.

Things no dog owner wants to come home to. The good news? Dogs like routine and Houpt says there are things you can do now to ease them into a new one.

“Going out the door at the time they would usually go to work for a few minutes and then come back,” said Houpt.

Teaching them — all over again — that you’ll come back.

“You have to be careful when you do leave that you don’t greet the dog too exuberantly when you get back,” said Houpt.

If you do come home to a mess, yelling at your pup might not get you what you want.

“You only have a few seconds, I mean, I like to drop a pencil to say you have that long between the time the dog does something and the time the punishment is effective. So if you come home four hours after he has torn up your couch or your door and you punish him, he’ll just be confused and decide that you’re coming home is something that he should be anxious about,” said Houpt.

So when you do come back, Houpt suggests greeting them with love, just wait until they’re calm.

“When you are going to pet him have him do something first, just to sit or whatever command he knows,” she said.

If your pet’s anxiety persists, Houpt urges pet owners not to use a shock collar, but to see a positive reinforcement behaviorist. If that doesn’t work, she says to consult your vet if you want to look into anti-anxiety medication.

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