Pets are a big part of many peoples’ lives. While some families have had cats or dogs for years, others took advantage of the extended time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic to adopt a new furry friend. However, as pandemic restrictions ease and more people return to work and other activities outside the home, the newfound time alone can be stressful for our pets.

Here are a few tips adapted from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Dr. Patricia B. McConnell, a certified animal behaviorist, to help ease the transition to the “next normal.”

Start Leaving: as pandemic lockdowns and restrictions end, start by leaving home a little bit at a time. Leave your pet at home for just a few minutes. Take a quick walk around the block, and then come back. Continue to increase the amount of time you’re gone. When you leave, mimic the routine you’ll have when you go back to work: Get your purse or wallet and keys, put on your jacket, then leave your home using the door you’ll go through. This way, your pet gets used to the cues that mean you are leaving.

Create a Safe Space: Pets, especially dogs, prefer safe spaces that they know. That space may be a crate, a particular room, or a gated-off area of your home. Whatever it is, make sure your pet is familiar with the area and uses it every time you leave.

Make a New Plan: If your dog has gotten used to walks or “bio breaks” every few hours, it may be upsetting not to get those anymore. How will you continue to keep them engaged and entertained? For some people, it may be possible to go home over a lunch break. Others may hire a dog walker or dog sitter. Still others may choose doggie daycare. Whatever you choose, now is the time to figure it out before you head back to the office.

Watch for Troubling Behavior: Pets may develop separation anxiety after being cooped up with us daily for nearly two years. They may be clingy, destroy furniture or other household items, or do their “business” on the floor instead of outside or in their litter box. If your dog or cat is showing these signs, reach out for help. Call your veterinarian, or engage an animal trainer or behaviorist. There are many solutions they can recommend to help curb these issues.