Adopted a pet during coronavirus? Here are some tips to ensure it's comfortable when you return to work

Brad Tucker with his new puppy Luna. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Brad Tucker with his new puppy Luna. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Dogs and cats across the country are "living their best life" as many of their humans stay home from school and work to stop the spread of COVID-19.

But while it's a wonderful time for many established household pets, for new additions to the family this new way of life could throw up some tricky situations when the household begins to return to normal.

RSPCA Australia senior scientific officer for companion animals Dr Sarah Zito said it was important, particularly for the owners of new puppies and kittens, to take steps to ensure they will grow up to be happy and confident.

"In some ways it's really, really great to have new animals in the household at this time because obviously you get to spend a lot of time with them and you can develop a good relationship with them," Dr Zito said.

"But remember it can be an unsettling time for our animals as well. Most of them will be living their best life at the moment, having their people around all the time, but it's important to make sure we get them used to spending time happily alone again, so it doesn't impact them too much."

She said while normal advice for new puppies would be to socialise them as much as possible by introducing them to new places, people, sounds and animals, given the social distancing rules in place it's "not the easiest thing to do" right now.

"The great thing is we can do a lot at home to help them adjust, even if we can't do it in a traditional way," Dr Zito said.

She said a fun activity for the family was to dress up in costumes, so the puppy gets used to different people and looks.

It's important to make sure we get [pets] used to spending time happily alone again, so it doesn't impact them too much.

Dr Sarah Zito

"Practice your acting skills wearing wigs, hats, sunglasses, pretend to be a delivery person, use a cane or a walker, get bundled up in wet weather or winter gear," Dr Zito said.

She said taking the puppy for local walks outside was also important, once they're vaccinated, to areas where they can see other people and dogs.

To get them used to different noises, she suggested playing soundtracks for things like thunder, fireworks, vacuum cleaners and other noises they will experience later on. It's important to connect these noises with positive experiences, so rewarding with treats or cuddles, she said.

Brad Tucker and his six-year-old son with his new puppy Luna. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Brad Tucker and his six-year-old son with his new puppy Luna. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

"We're going to be with them a lot and then suddenly go back to work or school, so it's important to teach them to be happy alone. Set them up on their own in a safe, comfortable space with a yummy treat or a toy so you can leave them alone for short periods of time, like a minute and then slowly building up to longer periods as they get used to it. It can help to avoid separation anxiety later on."

Dr Zito said it was a great time to introduce the puppy to leash skills, and basic training skills like sit, stay and come.

Even sitting them in the car and driving up and down the driveway could make things easier later on.

For new puppy owner Brad Tucker, little Luna joined the family at eight weeksnold on March 20. They had been planning for her arrival since January, before the pandemic had even hit Australian shores.

"Our last dog, Bagel the beagle, died in October from lymphoma," Dr Tucker said.

"We knew we wanted another one, and in early January decided to get a new puppy. We eventually found the breeder in Young in mid-January."

Dr Tucker said he does worry about being home all the time with Luna.

"My wife goes go to work, she's an emergency doctor, but I am home along with our two kids [aged six and three]," he said.

"The benefit of being home all the time is she has adapted well into our family and the kids love playing with her. We get plenty of time to work and train her and plenty of opportunities for the kids to do it as well."

The family leaves Luna at home when they go out for a walk because she's not fully vaccinated, but it also gives her time to adjust to being by herself.

"It is the best we can manage," Dr Tucker said.

Paws2Play owner and trainer Geraldine Wickham was concerned that if people didn't take steps to help their puppies adjust, they could suffer separation anxiety when they're older.

"We have half-a-dozen dogs in our daycare every day that can't be left at home alone, and that's in normal times," Ms Wickham said.

"We're going to have this generation of puppies that are possibly a little bit socially stunted, just through lack of experience."

Ms Wickham said separation anxiety was a big issue and a big cause of rehoming and euthanasia. In serious instances, it could cause pets to urinate or defecate throughout the house, smash through glass windows or chew through walls.

She encouraged new puppy owners to put things in place, like the Tuckers have done, to ensure a comfortable return to normal - when the time comes.

Our COVID-19 news articles relating to public health and safety are free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. If you're looking to stay up to date on COVID-19, you can also sign up for our twice-daily digest here.

This story Too much puppy love not ideal for return to normal first appeared on The Canberra Times.