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:
School begins soon which brings a flurry of activities that take people away from their pets, and you may notice your dog exhibiting separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety often occurs within 30 minutes of the owner’s departure. Cases range from mild to severe and can be manifested in a variety of behaviors, from pacing and whining to constant barking and destruction of furniture.
Dogs that live in stable, structured homes usually don’t experience separation anxiety, even if the entire family is gone for long periods of time, such as to work or school. However, some dogs may exhibit this type of behavior due to changes in their routine, such as the amount of time their people are absent. A move to a new home, like adoption into a new family, or the move to a new, physical house can also trigger separation anxiety, as can the death of a family member, human or otherwise.
Prior to school starting and the kids becoming heavily engaged in extracurricular activities, make sure you spend time with your dog. You may also want to slowly lengthen the time everyone is gone from the home a few weeks prior to school starting. Help your dog become accustomed to the house being empty of people and not have endure that long absence “cold turkey”.
Separation anxiety is a behavioral condition that is treatable. Strategies to break the cycle of increasing anxiety include “practicing leaving” -- simply pick up the car keys and walk toward the door then walk back to put the keys away. You can also go into closets and shut the door for a moment or walk out the backdoor and stay outside for a few minutes then return inside. Leaving the television or radio on has also been known to be successful in reassuring a dog that an owner is returning. In severe cases, having a pet sitter or allowing your dog to stay with friends or family who are home all day is also a consideration. Prior to these measures, first ensure your dog’s behavior is not due to a medical condition, therefore, consult your vet.
Keeping your dog exercised and providing it attention while you are home also helps to keep your four-footed friend more relaxed. Dogs are social creatures so they need our companionship. Games like Frisbee and flyball or obedience and agility sessions keep your dog’s mind active and his body moving. Having more than one pet as well as toys to play with also allows your dog to focus on more than just your absence.
As the dog days of August come to a close, consider your furry friend’s loyalty and love and help him more easily deal with the adjustment from summer time to school time.
For more information on separation anxiety, visit
http://www.petplace.com/dogs/separation-anxiety-in-dogs/page1.aspx or http://bestfriends.org/Resources/Relieving-Separation-Anxiety/
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.