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?
Face it: Pets cost money, just like human kids, and the adults in the family must work to take care of them (well, the vast majority of us do). So, we leave our furry friends home alone for hours on end. Although our pets may not have the adventures of those in the movie “The Secret Life of Pets,” oftentimes our furry companions get lonely, and sometimes they become destructive.
What’s a working pet parent to do? Here are a few suggestions:
Cats can jump gates and aren’t likely to stay in one room unless you close the door – and then who knows what you’ll come home to? Therefore, confining them isn’t the ideal. Instead consider these thoughts:
Cats sometimes also suffer from separation anxiety; Thundershirts are also available for them!
Other ideas to help keep your pet from being too lonely or bored include leaving the TV or radio on with soft, soothing music, and hiring a pet sitter or taking your furry friend to daycare; Rover.com, Care.com, and CatVacay can assist in finding a good sitter or daycare facility.
Find more ideas about keeping your pets from being too lonely or bored by visiting these websites:
Christmas is a’comin, and most of us know the excitement of children as the holiday approaches. Like kids, our pets also enjoy a few new toys, and what better time to give our pets a few special toys than the holiday of giving?
When you’re out shopping for the kids and other family members these final days before Christmas, don’t forget your beloved pet! Toys stimulate our pets’ senses and encourage them to exercise, thereby fostering great physical and emotional health. There are many wonderful pet toys, but there are also special factors to consider when purchasing a pet toy. Our primary consideration should be safety. Just as we want our kids to be safe with the toys they play with, so we should also want safety to be the number one factor when choosing our pet’s toys. Therefore, be sure to not give a toy that can be broken into pieces and potentially choked on or get stuck in your pet’s throat.
Toys should be durable and fun.
Here are a few ideas:
Kong toys – these great dog toys are made of hard rubber and can be filled with biscuits or a specialty-made ‘goo’ (like squeezable cheese from a can). This toy offers the thrill of “finding the scent” and an edible reward! It also provides your dog with chewable fun, saving your shoes and furniture! Kongs come in a variety of sizes so any dog can have great fun with this wonderful, sturdy toy! KONG also make wonderful toys for the felines of our family!
Rope toys – another great dog toy that allows you and your dog to play tug-of-war (or your dog and its other four-footed friend!). You can also play fetch with your dog using rope toys. Again, these toys are quite durable and will provide you and your dog with hours of endless fun and exercise!
Rubber balls and rubber rings – great for tossing and playing fetch with your dog. However, make sure that the toy is not too small for your dog’s mouth and that it won’t come apart easily, creating a choking hazard.
Plush and squeaky toys – these can also be used for tug-of-war or fetch; sometimes dogs just love to chew on them. However, choking hazards to be aware of with these toys include choking on the interior stuffing so you need to monitor your dog with these types of toys.
Play mice – cats LOVE these toys, especially the play mice dipped in catnip (some dogs like them, too, so watch for that!). Some of the mice are made with a string so you and your cat can play “catch-me-if-you-can”; cats love to stalk things, so this type of game engages your cat’s ‘wild spirit’ so to speak (think of a bobcat stalking and pouncing on a rabbit).
Laser pointer – cats enjoy chasing the little red dot around (just make sure you don’t shine it in their eyes!). Again, think cougar in the wild, stalking, chasing, pouncing.
Small balls – cats enjoy batting and chasing things, and there are rubber and other types of balls created just for them. However, since these toys are small, you’ll need to keep close watch to make sure other pets (like dogs) and your children don’t pick up these toys and put them into their mouths.
Feather-and-pole toys– these toys provide times of fun for both cat and cat owner plus gives your feline great exercise with the jumping, batting, and catching that goes on. The feathers stimulate your cat’s sense of prey, and you can sit in your favorite living room chair and give your cat the exercise it needs and the fun it enjoys!
There are many wonderful toys available for pets and pet owners to enjoy together, or for the pet to enjoy by itself. So, when you’re out and about doing your holiday shopping these next few weeks, remember your special pet and the love and devotion it gives you… so, don’t forget to put a wonderful toy or two into your pet’s Christmas stocking this year!
May you, your family and your beloved pet enjoy a safe and special holiday season!
Playtime – something children and pets enjoy and adult humans should do more of. Activity and play are good for people and for our pets.
Consider the wild cousins of our cats and dogs, those cougars, tigers, wolves and coyotes that wander the immense outdoors – searching, tracking, stalking, and chasing prey, and rolling, wrestling, and pouncing on their siblings and packmates. The wild ones engage in great amounts of activity; the furry companions living in our homes, more often than not, participate in the activity of... couch potato.
Most dogs were originally bred for some type of job such as herding, hunting, hauling, and guarding. These tasks required strong bodies and alert minds, and many breeds today still yearn for the work for which they were bred – you see that when your Corgi or Aussie Shepherd herds your kids! Cats also had jobs during the agricultural and early industrial age: keeping vermin, like mice and rats, at bay. Yet, today, most dogs and cats enjoy the lap of luxury – laying on the couch, floor, or pet bed. And sometimes that lack of activity leads to boredom and gets them into trouble.
There are many benefits for our pets to engage in play and other activities. In addition to being more physically healthy, exercise often alleviates unruly behaviors such as chewing, digging or scratching, hyperactivity, jumping on people, barking, whining, and meowing. These behaviors can not only be annoying but also destructive.
Mental stimulation is also important, particularly for those dogs bred for active jobs such as herding and hauling. Therefore, participating in more rigorous exercise like hiking and jogging or joining agility or tracking events not only exercises a dog physically but mentally as well. Playing with the cat using feather and laser toys engages kitty's prey and pounce instincts, again stimulating the cat's physical as well as mental abilities. Playing with your pet in the afternoon and evening helps tire it before bedtime, keeping it from being restless at night when you want to sleep – a great benefit for you!
So whether playing fetch with Fido, hiking with Holly, running the agility course with Ruger, or feather swirling and yarn twirling with Simba the cat, providing your pet with playtime reaps positive benefits for both you and your furry friend. And keep in mind that our pets want us to engage in activities with them – we are their special person, their pack, their clan. Think of how young wolves and lions wrestle with and stalk one another – they play together and hunt together. So spend time with your special canine or feline today engaging in some fun activities – your bond will grow even stronger … and the exercise will do you both good!
For more information on the benefits of playful activities with your dog, visit http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/exercise-dogs.
For further information on agility, tracking, and other dog events and activities, visit http://www.akc.org/dog_shows_trials/.
For more information on enriching your cat's life with play and other activities, visit http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/cat-behavior/enriching-your-cats-life.
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.