I don’t know about you, but I hate Monday mornings! After a weekend of hiking and playing with my dog, Charlie, it’s hard to get back into the workweek routine and even harder to leave her sad face behind when I head out the door.
Honestly, though, I think Charlie hates Mondays more than me. How can I tell? Well, Saturday morning she’s awake before me with a big smile on her face and can’t wait to get out and have some adventures, but Monday morning she won’t get out of bed, and when she does, her head is hanging low and she looks so sad.
It amazed me that she could tell a Saturday from a Monday, and I started to wonder if dogs could really keep track of the days that well.
After carefully observing this pattern, I finally realized one specific trigger that alerted her to a “work day” versus a weekend: my automatic coffee pot. As soon as she hears the coffee pot beep and start brewing, she knows I’m going to work! We’ll be snuggled up in bed, and I can feel her body physically slump against me when she hears that coffee pot brewing and knows I’ll be leaving her for the day.
Her Monday-morning antics have gotten quite cute over time. While I’m getting ready for work, I’ll often find her snuggled in bed with one of my hiking boots or her leash, innocently “hinting” that she wants me to stay home and do something fun instead. Believe me, there are times when I’d rather stay home with her. Unfortunately, calling in sick to work in order to play with your dog makes you sound like a crazy dog lady and will most likely get you fired.
For most of us, work is a necessary evil, and since not all workplaces allow dogs, we’re left with the reality of leaving them alone during the day and making it up to them when we get home. Luckily though, dogs are resilient and forgiving, and as long as we come home, they’re happy.
There are a few things that we can do to help our dogs ease into the workweek, though. Here are some suggestions to keep your pet from experiencing the Monday morning blues.
Keep the same morning routine you have on weekdays — even on the weekends! No, I don’t expect you to go to work on weekends, but if you normally set your coffee pot to start brewing at 6 a.m., do this on the weekends, too. That goes for any of your weekday morning routines, such as alarm clocks, showers, breakfast, etc.
Start the day off with a brisk walk with your dog — even if it’s just 10 minutes around the block. This provides fresh air, exercise, and a great bonding experience for you and your dog, and it gives them something fun they can count on each day.
Use food games or puzzles as you head out the door to lessen the stress of leaving. Hide bits of kibble or treats around the house and say “go find it!” as you leave, or you can fill a Kong with frozen, pre-moistened kibble or peanut butter to give them a yummy distraction.
If you can’t afford daily doggie daycare (I’m with you!), try to arrange for just one day a week at the doggie daycare or have someone you trust walk your dog during the day occasionally. Or you can go home on your lunch break to have a session of backyard fetch once or twice a week. Surprises can be just as great as routines!
Most important, give them lots of love and exercise when you return home from work. The best part of my day is coming home and seeing Charlie’s excited face in the window. That smile and wagging tail erase all memories of the morning departure. I automatically smile and can’t wait to shower her with kisses and snuggles.
After a few weeks on this new routine, I bet easing into Monday morning will be a lot easier for you as well as your dog. While routines are important to dogs, they are equally important for people. Give it a chance for at least a month, and you’ll probably start noticing that you’re more active, more awake, and more alert throughout the week. Your positive mood will bring happiness to others and especially your dog.
The human/animal bond is a sweet and precious thing. Spending time together, being active, and getting involved in enrichment activities with your dog will only strengthen that bond. The reward is priceless.
Does your dog get sad when you leave for work? What do you do about it? Tell us in the comments!
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About Heather Burt: Accountant by day, aspiring pet nutritionist by night, Heather Burt is a weekend adventurer and constant advocate for getting healthy and active with your dog. Bringing awareness to dog-friendly trails and the benefits of getting out into nature, she documents her ongoing adventures with her ever-active dog, Charlie, on her blog, Hiking With Heather. She is also enrolled in a program to become a pet nutritionist and bakes healthy dog treats for her side business, Kanine Kitchen.