Back to School Blues – Treating Pets with Separation Anxiety
Is your pet having difficulty adjusting to the new fall schedule? Maybe he’s eyeing you with panic as you get ready to leave the house? Separation anxiety isn’t only relegated to pets who’ve had a difficult background. It can also affect them when there’s a big change in schedule – such as the kids going back to school. If your pet has gotten used to people being home all the time and now they aren’t, it can cause upset and concern. Muffin doesn’t know it’s simply the time of the year, all Muffin knows is people were around and now they’re not and it often means long hours alone. Sometimes, separation anxiety can show up as extreme panic.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
- Excessive barking
- Urinating or Defecating Inside (Only when you’re not around – otherwise they’re house-trained)
- Scratching at doors/windows
- Destroying Things
If your usually calm dog is now destroying furniture or eating his way through a door, you have a severe case of separation anxiety on your hands.
How to Deal with Separation Anxiety
According to The Humane Society, crating won’t help and can make it worse. Punishment also won’t work.
In some cases, you may need a calming drug. Talk to your veterinarian about the possibilities on the market. There are many anti-anxiety drugs available.
- Don’t fuss over your pet when you leave or come home. Instead, calmly step out the door and when you return, ignore your pet for a few minutes (as best as you can) and then give a small pat or scratch behind the ears.
- Confine your pet to a laundry room or another space where he or she can’t inflict damage.
- Leave a “scented” shirt or other dirty laundry item with your pet. As you know, dogs are highly focused on scent and your familiar smell can help calm him.
- Give your pet toys that will keep him busy, for example, a peanut butter stuffed Kong. However, it extreme instances your pet may not touch it until you return.
- Calming scents like lavender can help. You can spritz it in the room and around your pet’s toys/bed.
- If you can take your pet to doggie day care or to work with you, that will ease the stress. The whole point is that your pet doesn’t want to be left alone.
- According to The Humane Society, crating won’t help and can make it worse. Punishment also won’t work.
How Do You Know if Your Dog Is Experiencing Separation Anxiety or Just Bored?
Bored dogs can be destructive and howl the day away. But their symptoms usually disappear if they get enough exercise – depending on the breed, that can mean a 10 mile run every day. Separation anxiety is more like a panic. If your dog gets visibly distressed while you’re getting ready to leave the house…that’s classic separation anxiety.
If you watch closely you’ll see the difference. You can try taking your pet out for a longer walk before and after work and seeing if that helps. A mid-day dog walker can relieve both bored dogs and give an anxious dog a break. You can also offer your pet a favorite treat before you leave. Often, a dog experiencing panic at the thought of being left alone will ignore it. They’re truly terrified about being alone and even a favorite treat won’t sway them.
What about your pet? Is he or she showing signs of separation anxiety?