Though the pandemic was difficult for many of us humans, our pets couldn’t have been happier.
But now that most of the world is back to in-person work and school, our furry creatures can’t spend every waking hour with us. This is okay for some pets; my cat has been plotting to get rid of me since the second day of quarantine. However, many pets, especially dogs, go into a panic when their family is not around for extended periods.
According to a Texas A&M Today article, sudden changes in routine are a huge cause of separation anxiety for pets. However, separation anxiety is not always just whimpering or barking; many pets will get so nervous they do their “business” inside the house and even throw up.
On top of everything else you are dealing with, this behavior goes from inconvenient to unwanted and hard to handle. But for most of us, the love we have for our furry friends would never lead us to surrender them back to a shelter. However, over the course of the past few months shelters have experienced a record number of returned pets due to the owners’ inability to care for the pet now that quarantine is over.
Getting a pet when you know you won’t be able to care for it in the future is a whole other issue, but for now, let’s talk about the ways those of us with long-term adoptions can help our pets cope.
Don’t Punish or Reward
The first thing you should remember is that it is not your pet’s fault. When you get a dog, you shouldn’t expect anything other than a dog; they are animals and they have needs and common behaviors. Also remember that their anxious behaviors stem from the inexhaustible love they have for you, their human. When you leave, their world leaves.
Though you have lots of other priorities, you are the only thing that matters to them second to treats. With that said, banishing them to their crate or yelling at them is not going to do anything other than scare and confuse them even more. Certainly, you shouldn’t be leaving them in a small space like a crate at all for extended periods.
However, you also shouldn’t reward your pet when they are seeking your attention out. When your dog is barking or whining for your attention, by responding with snuggles or food, you are teaching them that this is an effective way to get what they want.
Practice and Patience
While there is no way to snap your fingers to cure your pet’s anxiety, you can help show them that it is okay when you leave. Just like you taught them to “sit”, you can teach them to be independent pets.
The first thing you want to stay away from is fussing over your departure. Pets can actually notice the signs of you leaving and fonding over them to say goodbye is definitely not helpful.
You should also practice leaving them alone. Step out of the house or the room for a couple of minutes and come back to reinforce the idea that you will come back. You can gradually increase this time as you go.
Give Them Something to Do
Boredom makes the time seem longer; this is true for pets and humans. A great way to ease your pet’s anxiety and make it so they don’t even notice anything different is by keeping them occupied.
You can do this by turning on the TV (with no anxiety invoking shows of course), playing soft music (animals love classical!), giving them a toy that is stuffed with treats, a bone, etc. There are even many programs on the TV or radio that are meant for pets.
Products Made for Pet Anxiety
Pet separation anxiety is such a common thing that there are many products out there engineered to help calm them!
ThunderShirt is an outfit that mimics the pressure of a hug to calm your pet.
These aromatherapy stuffed animals use your pet’s amazing sense of smell to relax them!
Licks Pill-Free Dog Zen Calming is a calming gel made from herbs that you can give your pup 30-60 minutes before you leave.
Talk to Your Vet
Ultimately, if your pet’s separation anxiety does not go away with these solutions, it is worth talking to their veterinarian. Like humans, anxiety in pets is not always fixable with home remedies. Medications are a normal route if it will be the best thing for your pet. At the end of the day, a man’s best friend deserves nothing but to feel loved and cared for, so it is important for not just your own wellbeing, but also theirs that you be attentive to their separation anxiety.
What have you found that helped your pet deal with separation anxiety? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.