They’ve been our best four-legged friend throughout the last year and a half, but what now?

With restrictions easing, some of us are returning – at least for some of the time – to our place of work. Dog owners will have to figure out what to do with their pooch. It’s a potentially worrying situation – and one to make you seriously ‘paws’ for thought.

To help you both through those first nervy steps, we spoke to experts for their essential tips on either returning to work with your dog, or leaving them at home…

Check with your employer first
Dr. Joe Inglis, head vet at VetChef, says some employers might welcome a dog in the office, so check with them first before making any big decisions about doggy day care.

"Ask if they, and your fellow colleagues, are happy with you bringing your dog in," he says. "Find out if they have any allergies, or if any other dogs are likely to be at work at the same time, which could conflict."

Do a test run
"Your dog might be as good as gold and your colleagues might love the opportunity to take it for lunchtime walks; or it could become a huge distraction and get over-excited during the worst times, like client meetings or conference calls," says Inglis. "Discuss a trial period with your boss and colleagues to ensure everyone is happy."

Think about their basic needs
When in the office, an urgent call of nature is to be expected, so make a plan to avoid barking, pacing or panting. As Inglis puts it: "Where will your dog exercise and go to the toilet while at work? You can’t expect it to sit quietly all day without some chance to do essential dog stuff, so check out the local parks. Are they dog friendly, and close enough to make it practical to take your dog three or four times a day?"

Review their diet
"If you want a happy, healthy, relaxed and well-behaved dog, feed it fresh food but make sure you get the nutritional balance right," says Inglis – and also "make sure your colleagues know not to feed it things it shouldn’t eat".

Think about doggy day care
It’s not ideal, but if you have to rely on someone else to take care of your hound, it’s important do your research. "Check out online reviews and book early," suggests Inglis. "They’re going to get very busy with lots more people returning to the office, so book a dog walker now."

Build up to the big day
If you’re going to be leaving your dog at home, trainer and founder of Kirby Dog Services Ella Camps-Linney says: "Don’t wait until your first day back at the office to get your dog used to the new schedule. Practise short independence exercises while you’re still at home, then gradually increase the duration and distance.

"While your dog is relaxing in a room away from you, set them up with their favourite toys and treats, so they can connect these independent moments with something fun and positive. Once your dog has built up some tolerance, [start] leaving the house for very short periods of time, building up the time very gradually."

Prioritise their wellbeing when they’re home alone
"Before you leave for work, carve out time for a morning walk and play session with your pup. The exercise will tire them out, so they’ll sleep while you’re gone. Then set them up with their comfy bed, some toys to stimulate their mind and enough water to last," says Camps-Linney. "Ideally you don’t want to leave them for longer than four hours."

Think about how else can you keep an eye on them
"It’s advisable to use a camera to monitor your dog. Ignorance isn’t bliss in this case," advises Camps-Linney. "If your dog whines and barks while you’re away or shows other signs of anxiety, it’s a clear sign you’ve pushed the separation training too quickly for your dog, and you need to go back a stage."