Calgary

Here's how to curb your pandemic pet's anxiety when you head back to the office

Many Calgarians are preparing to spend more time at the office and less time at home as the province lifts COVID-19 health measures — and those who own dogs are trying to figure out what to do with their pandemic pooches.

Dog daycare operators in Calgary notice growing demand

Two dogs at Back in the Pack Dog Daycare in Calgary. Some Calgarians are preparing to spend less time at home with their pets as they return to working in the office. (James Young/CBC)

Many Calgarians are preparing to spend more time at the office and less time at home as the province lifts COVID-19 health measures — and those who own dogs are trying to figure out what to do with their pandemic pooches.

Cats and dogs are both prone to separation anxiety, says Ruby Leslie, founder of Welfare for Animals, a Calgary-based animal training company. 

Your being away for much of the day can be hard on a dog that isn't used to it. It can lead to an anxiety disorder, causing pets to respond negatively to pre-departure cues, like you putting on a coat or jingling your keys. 

WATCH | How to help your dog cope with you being away at work:

She says it's best to take at least two weeks to help pets slowly adjust to longer absences.

"You can go to another room, come back, increasing the duration," she said, and from there increase time away from the home by going on short walks. 

Other tips include hiring a dog walker or cat sitter, and playing music or podcasts while away. 

Leslie says it's also helpful to put up a camera to observe any anxious behaviour in your pets so you can take them to a vet, if needed. 

Ruby Leslie is the founder of Welfare for Animals, a Calgary-based animal training company. (James Young/CBC)

Dog walkers in 'limbo'

Leslie says she's in a "limbo zone" bracing for what is expected to be substantial increase in demand over the next month. 

Danielle Gwilliam is a dog sitter who has been helping her neighbour out by watching his dog, Luna. Lately, she's been bringing Luna to her office. 

"During COVID, she was home all the time with him. So she's not used to being alone and separation anxiety, and it's long hours to be alone," she said. 

Danielle Gwilliam and her neighbour's dog, Luna. (James Young/CBC)

"I think of it kind of like being the cool aunt. So I get the benefits of having a dog without the financial responsibility."

Brian Burke, owner of Back in the Pack Dog Daycare, says demand dipped in 2020. The service was kept afloat mainly by clients who were doctors, nurses and support staff at the nearby hospital. 

Brian Burke is the owner of Back in the Pack Dog Daycare in Calgary. He says attendance dipped in 2020, when the pandemic began. (James Young/CBC)

"Our attendance probably dropped at about half, and then it just continued to build up pretty consistently for the last year," he said. 

Now he says the business is back at pre-pandemic levels and getting one to four new dogs a week, but the biggest difference is the dogs are older when they come in, as they stayed at home longer. 

"The nice thing that we have is we have a stable daycare environment for them, so they don't have to worry about their dog. No matter how much stress there is in the rest of their lives, we're pretty certain that their dog is going to have a great day."

With files from James Young

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