When the kids go back to school, pets can be left feeling a little blue. After a summer of having their best buddies around all day to play with, they are suddenly left alone when they go off to school and you go off to work. Sometimes, this can trigger a condition known as pet separation anxiety. Dogs are more commonly affected than cats because as pack animals, they naturally feel more comfortable and safer when in their “pack” or family. Being left alone can trigger all sorts of anxious behaviors some of which can be destructive to your home and even your pet. Learn to recognize the signs of pet separation anxiety and how you can help your dog stay calm when they’re alone.
Recognizing the Signs
Pet separation anxiety can be tricky to recognize because all of your pet’s anxious behaviors surface when you’re away. Still, there should be some subtle (and not so subtle) signs of their anxiety:
- Torn up objects such as socks, shoes, pillows, etc. from destructive behavior
- Claw marks from digging at the doors and windows in an attempt to escape
- House soiling that only occurs when you’re away (house soiling in your presence as well could indicate other problems)
- Excessive barking and howling (likely reported by your neighbors)
- Pacing around the house, which is difficult to capture without a pet camera
Helping Pets Cope with Separation Anxiety
If your pet exhibits any of the above behaviors, they may have separation anxiety. Help them cope with these tips:
- Exercise your pet before you leave for the day. Sometimes, boredom can cause many of the destructive behaviors associated with pet separation anxiety. By stimulating your pet mentally and physically, they will likely be happily exhausted when you leave and focus on resting instead of being upset by your absence.
- Give your pet a special treat in a food puzzle to occupy their minds as you leave. This also helps them associate their alone time with good things. Be sure to take the treat away when you get home.
- Set some time after everyone gets home in the evening to spend time with your dog and play with them. This gives them something to look forward to every day!
- Leave the TV or radio on so that your pet has something to listen to. Choose a nature channel, kid’s show, or a classical music station to encourage a calm atmosphere.
- Don’t make a big deal out of leaving and coming home. This only increases their stress level with being alone. Make goodbyes calm and quick and when you come home, ignore your dog until they’ve calmed down, then give them attention.
- For more severe cases of separation anxiety, talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medications that can further help your pet remain calm. But don’t make this the final resort! Continue conditioning your pet to tolerate being alone. We can help you with suggestions for their training!
If you have any other questions or concerns about pet separation anxiety, please contact us today at 732-268-8180.