NOVATO (KPIX) — Adam Wright adopted Frida, an 8-month-old English golden retriever, last November during the pandemic. She became his near-constant companion as he worked from home.
“Living alone was quite tough during the pandemic so it was nice to just have someone else around,” Wright said.
Now, as more people return to the office, many pandemic pet parents face the prospect of leaving their pet home alone after they’ve been together almost 24/7.
“She hasn’t been home alone a lot so I need to work on that a little bit and I haven’t been away too much,” Wright said.
Training classes to help pets and their parents cope with the transition are filling up.
At Marin Humane in Novato, dogs learn to get along with other people and other pets — socialization many young pups have not had while sheltered at home. They also learn to deal with separation anxiety.
Ann Glasscock-Ryan oversees Marin Humane’s behavior and training classes and she offers a simple test.
“If they’re really attached to you and you go out to check the mailbox and they’re sitting by the door panting, whining and fussing, they’re probably not going to do well if you leave for eight hours,” she explained.
Glasscock-Ryan says you should gradually build up your pet’s comfort level with being alone.
Don’t just leave them at home for eight hours, start small.
“Don’t make a big production of coming and going. We don’t want to make a big fuss ’cause it amps them up,” she said.
Tasha Suda, lead dog trainer at the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA, teaches classes and does consultations and instructional videos on a YouTube channel.
She added this advice: “If you’re afraid they’re going to destroy things, keep them enclosed in a smaller space that’s safe for them.”
While you’re gone, use puzzle toys to keep your pet busy. You can put kibble or treats into a Kong toy. It will take them time to get to the food and challenge their minds as well.
Suda scattered treats in a snuffle mat.
She said, “With the snuffle mat, we can place some treats in there, making it easy so the dog can find them.”
Trainers say you should exercise your pets so they’re tired and likely to nap.
Have a dog-walker come in to break up the day and use technology.
“Set up a camera so you can keep an eye on them, talking to them. There’s all sorts of great options,” Glasscock-Ryan said.
Lindsay Lockhart and her husband are training and socializing their puppy, Tortilla, so she’s ready for doggy daycare.
“We want her to have a good time and not get kicked out,” Lockhart said.
Finding care isn’t always easy, according to Wright.
“It’s been tough finding dog walkers that have availability in my neighborhood or doggy daycares that can take new dogs,” he said.
Trainers say it’s important to go through the process of preparing your pet ahead of time so they’ll feel OK knowing that staying in their home alone for a few hours does not mean they’ll be alone forever.