More than a week has passed since my husband and I adopted “Stormy,” renamed “Jeremiah.” Overall, considering all the changes the little guy has gone through in this short amount of time, he is doing well. He certainly knows I’m his caregiver! Not a bad thing… except when I leave the house. Then, he whimpers, barks, and howls. He may be developing separation anxiety.
According to both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), separation anxiety can occur in dogs who experience a change in guardianship or family. Dogs which come from shelters and rescues, as Jeremiah did, become accustomed to certain caregivers while living at Hearts United for Animals, and since I’m the primary caregiver to our pets (feeding, going outside to potty, etc.), he prefers I be in sight. Sometimes he even whines when I’m just downstairs doing laundry!
Separation anxiety can be mild or severe. Behaviors range from barking and pacing to going potty in the house and destroying furniture and clothing.
There are many counterconditioning activities a pet parent can implement to desensitize a dog to its human leaving. An article on the ASPCA’s website advises, “For dogs with separation anxiety, counterconditioning focuses on developing an association between being alone and good things, like delicious food. To develop this kind of association, every time you leave the house, you can offer your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish.” Recommendations for such toys include KONG; not only are these toys nearly indestructible, but they also provide opportunities for your dog to enjoy a treat while you are gone and also get some good exercise. Try this for short trips at first, such as going to the grocery store, can help prepare your dog for your long away-times, such as school or work. Read the entire ASPCA article on separation anxiety here, including recommendations for more severe cases of the behavior: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/separation-anxiety.
Jeremiah and our other dog Mary get along well; I often find him curled up next to her or at least within close proximity. Having our other dog around helps him, but not enough to keep him from carrying on when I’m gone. Needless to say, I’ll be working on some of these counterconditioning ideas recommended by the ASPCA!
Have you had a dog with separation anxiety? What did you do to help your four-footed friend not be so anxious in your absence?
On Monday, August 21, people will be watching the skies, especially in areas like Casper, Wyoming (where I live) as a total solar eclipse appears. Those of us who enjoy animals may wonder what pets and other creatures will do in response to the eclipse.
Most of us know animals respond to natural phenomenon, such as earthquakes. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, animals seem to sense the onslaught of an earthquake. And, many pet owners know their dogs become anxious during thunderstorms.
According to a report from National Geographic and other sources, animal behavior during an eclipse is not well documented due to the rarity of such an event. However, the organization reports that in other eclipses, “Dairy cows return to the barn, crickets begin chirping, birds either go to roost or become more active, and whales breach in the seas.”
During the upcoming eclipse, an ecologist at the California Academy of Sciences, Rebecca Johnson, is seeking to improve the scientific record regarding animal behavior and solar eclipses. She has helped create the Life Responds project, which runs on a SmartPhone app called iNaturalist. The Nat Geo article states, “Her team of biologists and astronomers will use the app to collect data from the millions of people who will witness the eclipse on August 21. The hope is that the Life Responds app will create a meaningful clearinghouse for animal behavior during eclipses that scientists can use to advance their research.”
Staff and volunteers at zoos across the country will also be observing behaviors of the animals living in these facilities. An article from CNN states that the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga plans to carefully observe its lemurs. “There is evidence from past eclipses that lemurs ‘behave oddly during these events,’ according to Thom Benson, the aquarium's director of external affairs.” Additionally, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo “is betting something could happen with its collection of chimps, which it will be watching closely.”
Watch a video on NASA’s website about llamas’ and whale responses to past eclipses: Video about llamas and marine mammals: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/animals-total-eclipse.
As far as our pets, we may or may not observe and/or hear much of anything. The CNN article goes on to say, “A study from the 1970s found that pet rabbits mostly slept. A few caged birds got agitated. Some dogs ignored the eclipse; a few seemed scared; a few barked when it was over. Cats, well, cats were cats. Some played, some meowed, but for the most part they slept, again showing off their best quality, as anyone who owns a cat knows: Our feline friends think the sun and the moon revolve around them, so what's the big deal about a little more shade?”
Another article, published on Quartz, quotes Bryant Buchanan, a biologist who studies nocturnal animals at Utica College in New York: “Then, of course, as light levels increase any dusk activated genetic activity will move into daylight genetic activity. It’s hard to imagine that the eclipse would have much more of an effect than temporary confusion.”
So, how will the animals around us, including our pets, respond to Monday’s solar eclipse? Perhaps those of us observing the sky can also take a bit of time to watch and listen to nature and our pets and participate in the Life Responds project, becoming scientists in our own communities, adding to the public knowledge.
If you've ever had a pet become lost, you know the worry and concern. Every year stray cats and dogs come into community animal shelters, and many times those pets don't return home.
From unlocked gates to unleashed animals, pets of all types can find themselves roaming city streets or mountain forests. There are several easy ways to prevent this from happening, ideas to help you find your furry friend if indeed it does become separated from you.
Below are a few resources that can help you keep your pet from going astray or helping you find it should it become lost:
The July 4th holiday is just around the corner, and with it comes the sparks, flashes, and booms of fireworks. Although most people enjoy watching a fireworks display, our pets may seek refuge from the thunderous noise and intense bursts of light. Sometimes that “seeking refuge” manifests itself in ripped up carpeting,
Do you know that many pets are negatively affected by loud noises, such as thunderstorms and fireworks? Sometimes such anxieties originate from being exposed to a sudden, loud, disturbing noise even when young that results in a lasting bad memory. The fear of fireworks may be from light flares which accompany the noise, the strong sulfur smell that comes after the explosion, or the suddenness or frequency of the noise (such as a screeching rocket).
As the July 4th holiday approaches and summer progresses with its storm activity, there are ways you can help your pet deal with its anxiety of loud noises.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.