Wrapping your Head Around Pet Separation Anxiety
Once a routine is established at home, it’s not unusual for pets to embrace their daily dose of “me time”. That’s not to say they don’t get a little lonely or bored in their owner’s absence, but these normal reactions are a far cry from full-on pet separation anxiety. Instead of temporarily pacing or whining and then settling down to sleep, pet separation anxiety can make a pet simply come unglued at the sight and sound of keys, jackets and shoes.
Equally distressing for pet owners, pet separation anxiety can be soothed with patience, understanding, and above all, love.
Slight Variations on a Theme
The extreme response to being left home alone manifests itself as pet separation anxiety. Excessive vocalizations (barking, howling, whining), scratching or biting at the door or windows, pacing, soiling inside, digging, ripping up furniture, and other destructive behaviors are common symptoms.
Getting to the Root
Understanding why your pet feels the way they do is crucial to helping them cope. Dogs are known pack animals, and when their leader/owner departs the den/house, desperation and intense loneliness creep in. Some breeds may be more susceptible to separation anxiety, as well as rescue animals that previously experienced loss or abandonment.
Make It NBD
It’s counterintuitive to leave and return home with zero fanfare, but it’s crucial to show neutrality to a pet struggling with being left behind. If you go overboard with the attention before you leave, you end up reinforcing their anxiety. Likewise, if you make a huge fuss when you return home, they are being conditioned to being gushed over at the moment you get back.
In other words, try to convey to them that it’s No Big Deal that you’re leaving and arriving.
Burn It Off
Many pet owners are successful when they provide opportunities for physician exertion before and shortly after a separation. When they are tired they are less likely to expend energy they don’t have on destroying the couch or hardwood flooring. Also, it’s ideal to burn off steam after a long day spent apart. This also helps strengthen the bond between you.
Crate or Room Training
It may be worth it to set your pet up in their own room that is thoroughly pet-proofed. Install their favorite bedding, fresh water, a few safe chew toys to keep them busy, and a crate (if they’re crate trained) to facilitate safe, comfortable feelings. There are pet cameras available to help you monitor them throughout the day.
If you’re able to hire a pet sitter or dog walker to come in and keep your pet company (and they like this person) that may be a great solution to pet separation anxiety. Figure out how long you’ll be away and make plans accordingly. Some pets can only be alone for an hour or two before symptoms arise.
Pet Separation Anxiety
You can help your pet grow accustomed to your routine by slowly introducing them to the concept of you leaving. Over a period of time reappear calmly, gradually increasing your time away from home. This can take several weeks to months for pet separation anxiety to relax. Stay patient, never scold or punish your pet, and consistently offer praise and affection.
A dog behaviorist may be necessary if symptoms of pet separation anxiety show little or no signs of improvement.