As we begin returning back to work and our daily lives after COVID-19, we all have concerns with how it might affect our pets' daily life now that they've grown accustomed to us working from home. Separation anxiety is a heartbreaking thing to see your pet go through. It leaves you feeling so sad that you can't do more for your pet.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
In this article, I will discuss what separation anxiety is and ways to try and ease mild separation anxiety in your pet.
What Is Separation Anxiety?
In general, separation anxiety is when a pet shows symptoms of distress when their person goes away. Many pets will start to show signs of anxiety when their parents are putting on their shoes or grabbing their keys.
According to the ASPCA, symptoms of separation anxiety include:
Barking, crying, and howling
Defecating & urinating in the home
Chewing, digging, & destruction
Some pets suffer from separation anxiety in general, even before the coronavirus. It can unfortunately be common in pets adopted from shelters.
Separation anxiety can also happen during schedule changes in a pets' life. This can be exasperated when we go back to work after they've gotten used to having us home.
How to Ease Separation Anxiety in Your Pet
Proper Exercise is Key
Many pet behavioral and emotional issues can be greatly reduced by simply making sure your pet is getting enough exercise. Too much pent up energy is frequently expressed in the form of stress & anxiety (and sometimes destruction of your home!).
Before you leave, tire your cat out with play or take your dog for a long walk before you leave.
A tired pet is a happy pet.
Start by being mindful of when your pets start to show anxiety. Is it when you grab your coffee to go cup, put your shoes on, or pick up your bag? Once you know which thing you do that is causing your dog to know you're leaving, you can work on desensitization- the process of removing negative feelings associated with you leaving.
Say your dog starts barking when you go to put your shoes on, like clockwork. Try putting your shoes on, walk around the house, and take your shoes off but don't leave the house. Anytime your dog seems less worked up, give them a tasty training treat.
Repeat this process several times for a week or two until your dog shows less of a reaction to you putting on your shoes. This might be something you need to do for longer, but will depend on each dog.
You can try this same thing with keys and other leaving indicators your dog gets upset by. Pick up your keys, walk around the house with them, put them back but don't leave the house and give a treat.
Make Leaving the House a Treat For Your Pet
When it is time to leave, make leaving a good thing for your pet by treating your dog with a frozen peanut butter/kibble Kong toy or giving your cat a tasty treat.
Another great idea is to leave out an interactive puzzle toy in which they have to focus on how to get the treat out. It's a healthy and positive way of mentally stimulating your pet.
Treat your pet consistently every time you leave and over time they will associate you leaving the house with a tasty treat.
Adaptil Calming Products
Adaptil products utilize pheromones, a comforting chemical that puppy moms secrete to comfort their babies. It's great for stressed dogs with anxiety.
Adaptil.com says: "Mother dogs communicate with their puppies through natural messages released into the air. These "comforting messages“ are called Dog Appeasing Pheromones. These odorless messages are only perceived by dogs.
These “comforting messages” provide a strong signal of security and comfort to dogs of all ages. Cats and people are not affected."
I've had clients swear by these products. They are definitely worth trying out.
Leave on Music or Television
Just like human babies, many pets find calm in soothing music and sounds of people talking on the television.
Music can be very healing for humans and animals alike. You can play classical music or even purchase albums crafted specifically for nervous pets. There are even Spotify playlists and pet TV channels that you can take advantage of to help your dog or cat.
Try either music or television to help drown out background noises and help your pet to drift off to sleep.
Hire a Dog Walker or Pet Sitter
The great thing about dog walks and pet visits is they help break up the day for your pet and get them well needed exercise to work off that tension. It gets them out and smelling new scents to take their mind off you being away.
Some people hire pet sitters just to hang out with their pet while their gone. It breaks up the alone time and reduce loneliness in your pet.
Get a Checkup at the Vet
Sometimes what appears as anxious behavior can in fact be an underlying medical issue. It is a good idea to have a vet checkup to rule anything out.
Your veterinarian might also be able to provide you with ways that might help your pet's particular situation.
When to See a Professional
If you've tried the above suggestions without relief for your pet or their separation anxiety symptoms are more than mild, it might be time to look into a Dog Trainer of Pet Behaviorist.
These skilled individuals will meet with you and ask you to go to leave to see how your pet experiences your normal departure. Then they will work with you and your pet's specific issues to come up with a plan to help your baby find relief.
Separation anxiety can be very disrupting to your family life, but with consistently following the steps above, you can help your pet ease their symptoms. Rest assured, pet parent, you've got this! Just keep trying and over time you will see progress. Your pet will be so grateful.
Did I miss anything? Comment below if you've tried something that has helped your pet with separation anxiety.