VICTORIA -- The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed pet owners to be home full time with their four-legged friends for the last two months. Now that restrictions are easing in B.C., many people are heading back to work, which experts say can be hard on animals who are accustomed to having people around.

"Your cats are not going to care that you're going back to work, but your dogs are going to be really stressed out," said Penny Stone, founder of the Victoria Humane Society.

She says the animal rescue organization is concerned about a spike in animals who will develop separation anxiety as a result of their owners returning to work after being home full time.

The humane society has been advising people who have adopted pets during the pandemic to make sure they are comfortable being alone, before owners have to return to work.

"They've totally relied on you, and when you leave them they can have a sense of abandonment," said Stone.

That can lead to separation stress or anxiety. If they are stressed, dogs will bark and whine for a short period of time before settling. The anxiety, however, is equivalent to a canine panic attack that will not end until the owner returns home.

Dog trainer Dave Tomey suggests pet owners start by leaving their dogs at home alone for short periods of time, and gradually increasing it. He also says, leaving out toys, treats, and playing music will help keep your dog calm and occupied.

Some dogs can also be anxious if they have access to the entire house, and creating smaller spaces, by closing doors, can make them feel more comfortable.

The humane society is asking that all pet owners start working with their dogs now to prevent a spike in surrenders due to anxiety.

Stone says it is very difficult to re-home a dog that has separation anxiety because they can be destructive and loud. However, with patience and proper training it is a problem behavior that can be overcome.