RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Most pets have had it pretty good during the pandemic. I know mine has. With owners working from home, 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 hard adjustment. We called Dr. Douglas Kratt - he's president of the American Veterinary Medical Association - to get some tips on how to help our furry friends get used to being at home without us.
DOUGLAS KRATT: Preparing as 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'll be others that might need some additional help.
MARTIN: Yeah. What about - just getting very practical here - walking, unlimited water and food? These are things our dogs have gotten very used to over the last year.
KRATT: Well, 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. 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?
MARTIN: Because you can buy automatic feeders, right? It doesn't necessarily mean hiring someone to be in your home to feed your dog.
KRATT: Exactly. There's the automatic feeders. There's ones that hook up to smartphones nowadays. So there's any number of ways to go about doing that.
MARTIN: Anything we should not do in helping our dogs make these transitions?
KRATT: Well, so don't make too big of an issue of it. 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 our pets will definitely feed off of that as well.
MARTIN: You said most dogs are going to be fine with this, but what signs should we all look for in our dog if they are not doing well?
KRATT: 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 chewed on in the past. They may become a little more clingy, i.e. right at your side all of the time. So look for differences with respect to that.
MARTIN: More snuggle time, right?
MARTIN: So what advice do you have for owners who might be consumed with guilt after bonding with their animals, their pets for so long and then just feel super guilty about leaving them?
KRATT: 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 for us. 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. 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 bet you they're going to love it as well.
MARTIN: Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, thank you so much. We appreciate all your tips.
KRATT: Thank you. You guys have a great day.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE PUPPY SONG")
HARRY NILSSON: (Singing) If only I could have a puppy, I'd call myself so very lucky.
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