How to manage pet separation anxiety
Do you need to travel for work, or to see family?
There are many things to consider before leaving home for a holiday or a convention, or a night out, or…
… and, if you leave your four-legged friend behind, you have some extra considerations.
Imagine if you just left your children alone without telling them where you are, or when you are coming back, or who will take care of them while you are gone.
There is no guidance on what to do – or not to do – or how to contact you for help in case of need.
You just leave, not sure your needs, questions, and concerns have been met.
If you do it for a furry family member, they can experience separation anxiety, trigger bad behavior, and poor health.
But separation anxiety in pets can be managed and avoided if you take the right approach.
No need to travel. It can be a change in your daily routine – like going to work, then working at home for a few weeks, then back to work.
Try changing your routine without talking to your pet about it like changing your shift rotation and not telling your wife and kids!
Pets, like the loved ones in your life, deserve to be ‘kept in the loop’.
They rely on you, and when you change your patterns and habits without proper notice or provision for them, they should try to change with you.
Unfortunately, coping mechanisms can be more destructive than the family can handle…
Preventing separation anxiety in pets takes thought and care
You are your dog’s world…anxiety can take a toll on him more than other more independent animals.
And while cats try to sell themselves as aloof and uninterested unless you’ve filled the food dish or cleaned the box, they also care about your schedule.
You might think that riding a horse on a farm across town is a better option than a small paddock because of the space for roaming and other horse company… but get used to the daily pattern.
You are part of their herd. Time spent away from you can be stressful if they don’t understand what’s going on or why, or have questions or concerns.
I’m not suggesting that you can’t change anything in your routine, or leave your pet with a sitter or in a kennel…but it’s worth telling what happened, and why.
Treat your pet like a person who deserves to know what you know
Separation anxiety in pets occurs when your pet feels like being left in the dark. So, before making any changes to your schedule – permanent or temporary – be sure to provide details.
That is, you should tell them:
What do you want?
That’s when it will happen
Who is involved
What you need from them
How do you want to act
How long will you be gone or how long will this change last
Will he be in a kennel or cared for at home
When you come back
Giving your pet an explanation of how the environment or pattern will change will prevent separation anxiety…and its side effects.
Is your pet suffering from separation anxiety?
If you have a good relationship with your pet, they will feel comfortable and at ease as you prepare for the change in your routine.
However, if you don’t have time to communicate with them about the shared experience, they will show some clear signs that they expect something bad to happen.
1. Panting, zoomies, peeing in all the wrong places.
Dogs will lose themselves after a good workout by panting. And zoomies can be a sign that your pet is feeling happy and unhappy.
But are they constantly panting, even when your house is at a comfortable temperature?
Are they ricocheting off the walls and furniture … every time you come into the room?
Do they throw food on the doorstep, or choose a new bathroom that is not a box or yard? Maybe a dresser, a pillow, or behind the sofa?
Many of these behaviors can be signs of an underlying medical condition, such as potential heart failure or infection.
Of course, take it to the vet if there are problems like bladder control or vomiting.
But then take a big step back and consider whether your pet could be trying to tell you that you are in the middle of a big life change.
2. Want a complete mannequin.
Resist the urge to think, “Wow, I can’t believe that dog has been around this long. It’s great that he’s disciplined.”
If you are trying to identify separation anxiety in pets, complete silence is not always a sign of calmness…
It is possible that your pet has ‘died’ and frozen from anxiety.
He tried to revive it. Good looking posture and attentiveness can be a sign that they are very scared. He wasn’t sure how to overcome his fear.
Like a deer in headlights, they try to process the situation and refuse to budge until they have a plan of action.
3. Going full Tasmanian devil.
Anxious animals have been left alone and, instead of retreating, they continue to attack in an attempt to get your attention.
They suddenly started tearing up the furniture, stealing food from the kitchen table, randomly chasing people who walked in the house.
You are busy with changes in life, and this bad behavior can lead to the conclusion that you suddenly have a bad pet.
The anger you feel only creates negative feedback.
Your pet has been anxious, and now the human is angry… it’s a negative spiral down a nasty rabbit hole that can be hard to get out of.
Learning how to communicate effectively with your pet can reduce stress…and you
You don’t need to worry about the time left.
Dogs, in particular, are the most social animals. If you find a good boarding place or daycare for them to spend time while you are at work or away on vacation, they will jump out of the car to race to the kennel.
And when you come back to pick them up, they will be happy to welcome you and jump into the car with enthusiasm and trust to go home again.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog, cat, horse or bird, the key is communication.
It doesn’t take long for an animal to become attuned to your sense of well-being. And … although it may seem wrong, they really want to relieve stress and pain.
They hope you’ll pick up on the signals they send when they’re worried or distressed.
Word to the wise: Don’t let them down when they need you.
Whether you consult a pet communicator, invest time in learning how to talk to your pet yourself, or simply make an effort to read your pet’s signals more intently, you will have a richer relationship.