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.