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Heading back to work or school? Here's how to help your pets cope with the transition
VANCOUVER -- With some people returning to school or offices in the coming weeks, family pets might have to readjust to being left home alone.
As COVID-19 spread, many schools, offices and businesses shuttered, leading to people spending more time at home.
Now, as B.C.'s economy begins to slowly reopen, Chirag Patel, an animal behaviour expert, shared some tips with CTV Morning Live Wednesday for how pet owners can help their pets adjust to the change.
Below is part of a four minute interview, which has been edited for length and clarity. Watch the full video above.
Jason Pires: What are the signs of separation anxiety in pets?
Chirag Patel: There could be a number of different signs. It could be pre-departure, so it could be before the caregiver's about to leave. The animal could start to play up, seem like they're stressed, they could be yawning, licking their lips, they could go hide somewhere, they might go sit by a door, they might start to whine.
When the person's actually left, the dog may just sit by a door the whole time, or they might be barking, whining, pooing, chewing things, trying to jump out of balcony windows, trying to chew doorways to get out if they're really stressed. So the signs could be really varied.
Keri Adams: As people have been home, pets have really been used to people being around. So how can we adapt to a new routine to make this as comfortable as possible for our pets?
Patel: So the first thing is to remember it is very different for our pets. They've suddenly had everyone at home and now everyone's leaving. So if the pet does start to show behaviours that the human might consider a problem, is it to be a little (understanding) as opposed to telling them off and saying the animal's misbehaving because they're not. It's just a lot of change they have to deal with – image how much change we've had to deal with and how stressful it is for us.
So let's start to put into our routine some mock departures. So if you have to go sit in your car for a little while or go for a walk or your exercise so the pet can start to be by themselves. While they're at home, lots of nice things are left for them. There's lots of goodies, there's a treasure hunt, there could be toys with treats in them. We can start to do those kinds of things to prepare them.
Pires: What are some good toys to prevent boredom?
Patel: You can get lots of toys like Kong toys which are rubber toys and they've got holes in them so you can stuff treats inside. These can be like Sudoku puzzles or word searches for dogs. You can put treats in, you can put their dinner in, you can run the tap over their dinner and freeze it so now the dog has to sit there working for the food … we fill their daily timetable with lots of things we want them to do, that are desirable behaviours as opposed to things we don't want them to do.
Adams: Pets obviously like to get extra treats, but do you have any other tricks that could prevent boredom in pets when they're by themselves at home?
Patel: You can use scent, you can get a bit of dried ginger powder, you can use cinnamon, you can get non-toxic food smells … so your dog can use their sense of smell and be looking around, sniffing things because a large part of the dog's frontal lobe is taken up by the olfaction system and if we can tire them out using their nose, that's a great way to mentally stimulate a dog. Taking them for a good amount of walks before you leave them alone, making sure they've had the appropriate of physical exercise is really, really important.