The restrictions put in place during the pandemic helped our four-legged friends get some extra time indoor with their owners. As the stay-at-home order relaxes and pet owners return to work, the daily routine and schedule changes are likely to cause pet anxiety (or dog separation anxiety in dogs). And this happens as the pet makes the transition from getting constant attention to alone times.
Our pets have become accustomed to our company during the pandemic restriction. Now that we are eager to get back into our pre-quarantine life, there may be a problem. Our pets may develop anxiety when we leave home without them and may express themselves by barking, defecating, or destroying things. However, there are a few things you can do to avoid this issue.
In this post, we will discuss the common signs of dog separation anxiety and how to help a dog with separation anxiety. We will also provide you with some tips to prepare your pet for your eventual return to your regular daily schedules, accept the inevitable separation periods and return to its daily grind.
Separation Anxiety in Pets
Separation anxiety is as real for dogs and cats as it is for humans. Experts describe it as the distress in pets that occur as a result of their owners’ absence. Signs may range from mild whining and obsessive grooming to uncontrolled defecation and aggression. However, the common signs of dog separation anxiety include:
- Whining and pacing, or excessive howling and aggressive barking when you’re about the leave the home without them.
- Obsessive digging and chewing.
- Uncontrolled happiness, zoomies, and extreme excitement once not alone anymore.
- Aggressive behavior such as aggression towards its owner, chewing through sofa and cushions, chewing bandanas, or destroying furniture.
- Making attempts to escape.
- Repeated clawing on doors and windows.
- Urinating or defecating around the house or in places she knows are not for potty breaks.
While you can reverse most of these pet anxiety symptoms with a few training procedures, serious aggression in dogs is not only harmful to the dog’s wellbeing but also to its owners. If you notice an increase in aggressive behavior, consult a trusted vet to eliminate that behavior before handling anything on your own.
How To Help A Dog With Separation Anxiety
One surefire way to help with dog separation anxiety is by helping your dog transition from getting constant attention to being alone. Suppose you observe some severe (or mild) symptoms in your pet, or you simply want to avoid returning home to a urine-soaked bedspread or chewed-up throw pillow. In that case, you should try the techniques below to help ease the transition.
Take A Walk Without The Pet
When your cat defecates on your pile of dirty laundry or your dog scratches at your door when you leave home without it, experts say your four-legged friend is signaling to you that it is worried that you’re leaving permanently. That’s why you have to train your animal to understand that you will be back in due course.
After your pet’s bathroom break, begin with a 15-minute walk without bringing it along with you. Make sure you take your entire family with you so that the pet is on its own. Get yourself a pet camera and use it to monitor the behavior of your pet while you’re away. If your pet’s response to your absence is satisfactory, increase the time the next day to 30 minutes and ensure that the trip frequency is sporadic – maybe 2 to 3 times a week. Pet love routine, so you should regulate their walking and feeding times to imitate your schedule before going back to work or your routine.
If your four-legged friends keep showing a symptom of distress or anxiety, reduce your walking time till your animal looks relaxed, then gradually work your way back up. “We want to leave and return before they get distressed,” Dr. Wailani Sung, a veterinary behaviorist at the San Francisco SPCA, says. If you can work it up to the 4-hour mark, most animals would be fine for the whole workday, she added.
Break Up The Monotony With New Visitors
Consider hiring a pet specialist to interact with your dog while you’re away if the lockdown restrictions have been lifted in your area. Even weekly visits are enough to break the boredom and relieve mild symptoms of pet anxiety due to separation from its owners. When hiring a pet specialist to handle your animal with separation anxiety, make sure you look for a patient and reliable professional. A good dog walker or pet sitter will pay attention to your dog’s body language and behavior and will be ready to talk to the pet owner about any escalating behavior.
Keep Your Pet Occupied With Activities Or Toys
Consider investing in high-quality pet toys and accessories to ensure a stress-free atmosphere for your pet and a peaceful transition when the time comes to return to your regular routine and separate from your animal. Look for things that help them to interact positively with their environment. Before leaving for work, take your pet on a tiring walk or play stimulating games together, so your animal is ready for a long nap and alone time.
If your dog has a penchant for sniffing the floor for food crumbs, you can sprinkle treats or kibble on the Paw5 Wooly Snuffle Mat. If your dog finds it hard to adapt to silence, ensure you maintain a lively and busy atmosphere even in your absence. Some dogs enjoy the background music, white noise, or TV being on.
Help Your Pet Relax By Using Calming Aids
Over-the-counter calming aids and pheromones help pets remain calm, especially when there’s a change in routine. Dr. Sung and Wirecutter both recommend Feliway products for cats and Adaptil products for dogs. Dr> Sung says that it helps decrease their anxiety and increase their confidence. Pheromone diffusers and sprays are a bit more expensive than chewable calming treats. Opt for calming treats or supplements with L-tryptophan, L-theanine, or alpha-casozepine since they’re backed by research. If you find commercial calming aids too expensive, place a T-shirt that you’ve worn recently or a used pillowcase next to the favorite napping spot of your pet: your scent is on it, and it should help calm the dog.
Check With The Pet Professionals
In severe dog separation anxiety cases, you may be puzzled or uncertain about how to handle your animal’s behavior. Your pet may act out by excessively grooming until it develops bald spots, urinating inappropriately, chewing on its crates, or damaging baseboards. Addressing a pet’s unwanted behavior is essential before it becomes worse, and experts say that you should take even the least symptoms of distress seriously. An accredited animal behaviorist or dog trainer can assist pet owners in creating a training curriculum.
In the United States, there is no federal or state certification required to be a pet trainer, so Wirecutter suggests hiring credentialed experts registered with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, or the Animal Behavior Society for their evidence-based approaches use.
Suppose a trainer is unsuccessful in helping your dog transition to spend time without you. In that case, you may need to check with a vet behaviorist as your pet may be having severe dog separation anxiety. Vet behaviorists direct companion animal owners by reviewing the pet’s environment, behavior, and medical history to create a training game plan, and they can decide if medication, such as those used in people to treat panic disorders, can help the rehabilitation process.
Dog separation anxiety is a real condition, and it’s likely to occur after difficult situations such as the one created by the quarantine. Luckily, this article has opened your eyes to pet anxiety and how to help a dog with separation anxiety. If you notice any symptoms in your pet, try out the simple techniques mentioned above to help your animal get accustomed to new rules and transition peacefully from constant attention to alone times.