Boris Johnson has announced that enforced working from home will be scrapped within weeks as lockdown rules continue to loosen.
The Prime Minister confirmed that the drastic legal requirement introduced in March last year that left millions in the spare room or at the kitchen table will be abandoned.
But with pet purchases skyrocketing in lockdown, thousands of employees are having to make decisions about what to do with their dogs should they return to the office.
And many are planning to bring pets to their place of work with research by Bought By Many revealing that 840,000 dogs could be joining the commute on trains, tubes and buses.
The poll found that almost one in five (19%) dog owners are now planning to take their pets into work with them as employers become more flexible about dogs in the office.
Of these, 37% are planning to commute with their dog via public transport. Not surprisingly, many owners are concerned about how comfortable their pets will find it with nearly eight in ten believing public transport lacks suitable facilities for their pooches.
“The world of work has changed dramatically over the past year and many dog owners are now thinking about how to balance looking after their dog with the return to the office," explains Steven O’Callaghan, senior manager at Bought By Many
"For many owners, leaving a pet at home alone or organising doggy day care can be stressful and costly, so improved commuting options as well as flexibility from employers about allowing different commute times to avoid peak rush hour and dog-friendly offices will be welcomed by thousands of pet parents up and down the country."
To help raise awareness about the impact of joining the daily commute of pets, Bought By Many has worked with leading dog trainer and behaviourist, Oli Juste and transport design practice, PriestmanGoode to design a dog friendly zone for the train carriage that offers a more positive commuting experience.
Some of the features of the pet-friendly design include a safe covered space for the dog to rest in, further safe space under passenger seating – suitable for small and large dogs, a water refill and treat area and a cooling mat for hotter days.
Commenting on the design of the pooch-friendly carriages Kirsty Dias, Managing Director of design agency PriestmanGoode, said: “We see an opportunity to rethink the design of carriages to create an environment that is comfortable and stress free for dogs, as well as their human companions.
"While some of the ideas, such as special cooling mats on the floor, are specifically designed to ensure the dog's wellbeing, we have also implemented other ideas that have a variety of functions and can benefit different users.
"For example, flip up seats create more space for not only large dogs, but also passengers with prams or wheelchair users. It’s about ensuring flexibility and making sure that the future of the daily commute is comfortable for all passengers, both human and canine.”
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Until the vision for the perfect pup-friendly carriage becomes a reality there are some precautions pet owners can take to ensure the commute is as stress-free as possible.
How to prep your pooch to join the daily commute
Juste has put together some tips to help prepare your pet.
Check their body language
Look at your dog’s body language to assess how they are feeling; are they calm, nervous, confident, overheated? "This can help you decide the best approach in helping your dog on the train," Juste explains. "Aim to give them access to a calmer, quieter, safe places like the end of the carriage or away from other commuters."
Reassure and remain calm
Contrary to popular belief, it is absolutely ok to reassure your dog if it is stressed and it will not reinforce fear.
"It is vital that you reassure them to help them calm down and settle," Juste explains. "A big part of socialisation on commutes and public transport is acting in a calm and polite manner throughout the journey – ultimately this has to start with you.
"Stay relaxed and try not to get your dog excited. Remember, if you are calm, it will be easier for your dog to mirror you," he adds.
Give your dog and other dogs space
Puppies and dogs can be playful, but the commute is not a time to play. "Some other dogs (and owners!) may be nervous about the journey too and so will appreciate you giving them that extra space to help adjust," Juste says.
"Try not to restrict them - if they find a space they are comfortable to sit in and it looks safe, if the area is safe, it's fine to let them take the lead."
Juste suggests rewarding your pet for any positive or relaxed behaviour with treats or attention. "Use your normal tone of voice as you would in any other circumstance and judge the situation as to whether it is an immediate reward, or one that potentially comes after the journey is complete," he adds.
Loud sounds can be scary to dogs, especially strange noises that may only be encountered on a train for the first time. "Distracting them with their favourite toy and getting them to focus on you can help ease this fear," Juste explains.
But don’t try to feed them treats if they are stressed, anxious or fearful. "Doing this could get them to associate food with being scared and spoil their relationship with food," he explains.
"Remember to act in a calm manner using your normal tone of voice when issuing a command – not doing so could add to their stress and they will find it hard to follow."
Remember it’s ok to carry your dog
If you have a small dog, being at floor level could be overwhelming, so it’s ok for you to carry them and have them sit on your lap during the train ride. "However, if you have a Great Dane, then perhaps not!"
Encourage your dog to go to the toilet before a train journey, especially if it is going to be a long trip. "Dogs may choose to hold their bladder when in a strange environment or sometimes they may decide to 'go' with nerves, therefore allowing opportunity to go in advance will help with both situations," Juste advises.
Keep them hydrated
Hydration is very important. "Long trips or a warm environment will mean your pet will need access to water," Juste explains.
"Some dogs can be wary of where they drink especially in new surroundings, so providing a familiar bowl can help encourage them to drink. I recommend getting your dog used to a pop-up bowl in advance if it’s not something you currently use. They can be stored away easily for trips and days out."
Pick your traveling time
Avoid travelling during peak and busy times. "It will give your dog a chance to get used to the sounds and smell without the extra humans crowding the space," Juste explains.
"Another way to help your dog is by giving yourself some extra time to travel as you don’t want to be rushing and having to run with your dog in tow."
Get them used to travelling
If you’re planning a return to the office, make it a priority to habituate your dog to short journeys now ahead of the big day. "It may also be easier to avoid too many changes and very busy roads when bringing in your pup to work as this will minimise anxiety and a sensory overload for your dog," Juste explains.