Separation anxiety in pets is a real thing and recognizing the warning signs is important.
Since March, Covid-19 required most of the world to quarantine in their homes. Majority of people ended up working from home for nearly five months. This meant pet owners were constantly with their pets giving them attention, playing with them, letting them out etc. Therefore, when the world slowly started to open up again and pet owners began returning to normal life work schedules away from the home, pet owners noticed a difference in the way their pet acted. Many pets develop separation anxiety especially during this crazy time when majority people were stuck inside barely leaving the house.
Separation Anxiety in Pets Can Lead to:
Urinating and Defecating
Howling and Barking
Chewing, Digging and Destruction
What Causes Separation Anxiety:
A number of things can cause separation anxiety in pets. A clear reason right now is due to covid-19 requiring individuals to stay home for extended periods of time. Then these individuals were able to return to their daily lives leaving pets along for extended periods of time. Another reason is some adoptable dogs may have separation anxiety when first adopted because they fear their guardian may leave. Another cause is if a pet experiences a sudden change in its normal routine for example covid-19 it can in return cause separation anxiety in them. Be aware that also moving can cause separation anxiety so if your dog and you move around a lot it can trigger separation anxiety in your pet.
How to Maintain Separation Anxiety:
If your pet has a mild case of separation anxiety try turning when you leave into something exciting for your pet. This can mean offering them treats before you leave so they start to associate you leaving with getting a treat. It can also be helpful to leave them puzzle like toys like the brand KONG offers toys that you can put treats into or put food like peanut butter, or cheese in. This toy will distract your pet for a while, and they get a reward when they play with the toy. These toys try to offer only to your pet when you leave the house. This will train your pet to start to enjoy the time when you leave because they know they will be given a reward.
If you pet has a moderate case of separation anxiety it can take more time to get them accustomed to you leaving. This means taking the process of leaving them way slower. Start only leaving your pet for short periods at a time and continue to reward them. As they begin to get used to it increase the period of which you are gone. Over time your pet will start to recognize that it is oaky you are gone because they receive rewards. For dogs who have severe anxiety especially when they notice you put on shoes or grab your keys. For these pets try to associate these items with you not always leaving. Try to use these items but not leave to show your pet they are not to be feared of these items. If you have a pet who typically follows you around try to do things like telling your dog to sit and stay outside a bathroom door while you enter that room. Gradually increase the time you leave your pet on the other side of the door. This trains a pet that they can be by themselves and will be okay. This process will take a while so remain calm and patient with your pet. This process should start out in a room but should overtime get up to you being able to leave your house and go outside without your pet following. Continue to watch for signs of stress in your pet like pacing, trembling, panting etc. If any of these signs and others appear take a step back and move slower. During this overall process it is important you take it slowly so try to not really leave your pet at all which can be very difficult. Try to arrange if you do need to leave that someone like a friend can stop by and be with your pet or try using a doggy daycare service just so your pet is not totally alone.
Some Other Tips:
When greeting your pet after being gone say hello in a calm manner and then ignore them until they begin to remain calm. Same thing with saying goodbye remain calm and do not give into them being wild and crazy. To calm them try having them perform a task they know like sit or down. Another tip is to possible crate train your pet. If your pet associates their crate with being a safe place this can ease their anxiety when you do go to leave. It can also be helpful if you do not crate your pet to provide a safe room that your pet typically fees the most comfortable in. Another tip is to provide plenty of mental stimulation for your pet like treats and toys. Also try giving your dog some sort of exercise before you leave every day. Leaving hidden treats and food for your pet to find throughout the day will also keep them busy and entertained. If none of the above tips help, try seeking help from a professional in pet behaviors. They will be able to determine a regimen to help you and your pet get better. Medication may also be necessary for severe cases so to speak to a veterinarian about the different options for your pet.
Separation anxiety can be common in pets especially after the year everyone has had. Look for signs of separation anxiety in your pets and notice the different ways you can assist your pet in getting better. Also remember to never punish your pet for any anxious behaviors. Do your best to not discipline and instead use these tips to avoid future behaviors. Separation anxiety can be maintained with patience.