How to deal with anxious pets as you return to work


By Sacha van Niekerk Time of article publishedSep 28, 2020

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From a boom in adoptions to an increased rate in returns, lockdown has created some rather unusual circumstances for animal shelters and pet adopters alike.

Those who have them will attest that pets have the charming ability to paw their way into the very core of family life.

From the dads who insist that they don’t want a puppy, only to immediately soften up and allow them a spot at the foot of the bed to children who grow up with a companion that’ll see them through various stages of life – having a pet at home can be a truly wonderful thing.

Whether it was to seek company from the love of a furry friend or to or to relieve shelters of the pressure of having to look after a growing number of animals during the nationwide lockdown – many South Africans volunteered to assist animal shelters in whatever way they could. With that, the number of pets being taken into homes soared across the country as people adopted and volunteered to foster animals.

Luke Kruyt, Animal Care and Media Manager at Tears Animal Rescue, said that after issuing an appeal for foster homes on social media, TEARS received thousands of emails offering support and care. “We were able to empty our kennels and placed 120 dogs and puppies into loving foster homes for what we believed would be a three-week lockdown.”

TEARS was not alone in achieving such success, the Animal Welfare Society Stellenbosch, had all 115 dogs and 20 cats placed in a home in what was a historic accomplishment for them. Announcing the amazing news on social media they said: “Never in our 64 years of operation has our shelter been empty, we cannot thank our fosters, volunteers and incredible staff enough.”

Adopting a pet can be one of the most rewarding decisions you’ll ever make. In addition to gaining a loyal friend who will bring endless joy and companionship, adopting from a shelter or rescue group means you are directly saving two lives: when you bring home a rescue pet you’re freeing up a space for another animal who needs a second chance at a happy life. However, as many animal welfare organisations warned, pet adoption should not be a spontaneous decision and requires serious consideration, planning and family discussions.

While many of the families fell in love with their fosters, opting to officially adopt resulting in thousands of dogs and puppies finding their forever homes, some as the length of lockdown was extended, the number of foster fails increased.

According to Maryke van Rensburg of the Domestic Animal Rescue Group, “It created somewhat of an unnatural situation for adoptees and their pets who were around one another 24/7 after coming straight out of a shelter environment. With the emotional stressors individuals have experienced due to Covid-19, I think quite a few adopters took on more than they could handle.

“Many dogs would not have known a regular ‘home’ environment so there were most likely a lot of new things for them to adjust to, like the commotion of vacuum cleaners, washing machines and even hair dryers. Dogs need to be introduced slowly to novel things if they have only known life in a shelter. What often happens is some sort of fallout occurs from a dog being overwhelmed by too much too soon which can play into why they may have not settled in a home and thus been returned.”

With the easing up of Lockdown levels, many dog owners are now worried that their pet will be anxious when they return to work.

TEARS Animal Rescue shared some tips on how to get your dog into a new routine and used to being home alone (again) – avoiding as much stress as possible:

  • Invest in food-dispensing toys and long-lasting treats/chew toys, which will keep your dog busy and occupied while you are not at home
  • Make sure your dog has a comfy bed
  • Leave the radio on, it’s better than dead silence
  • Start getting your dog used to you not being around. Practise leaving home for short periods of time, and gradually increase the length of time spent away from home.
  • Consult with a registered animal behaviourist for more advice in dealing with separation anxiety


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