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Please Don’t Go! Coping with Separation Anxiety in Pets
Written by Ann Cathey
Does your dog freak out when you leave the house? Do you come home to chewed furniture and torn papers? Does he pee on the rug? Does she howl and bark when she hears you coming into the driveway? Do your neighbors complain about incessant barking while you are away from home? These are all signs of possible separation anxiety in your pet.
Overcoming separation anxiety will take time, patience and a lot of consistency on your part, but it is a worthy and achievable goal.
Start with a trip to the vet. You want to be sure there are no underlying physical issues that may be causing your pet to act out. A kidney or bladder issue can cause your dog to urinate in the house, when he’s usually really good about waiting to go outside. Nutritional issues can make a dog take up chewing, his body instinctively searching for things that are missing in his diet.
- When you are leaving or entering the house, keep your greetings low key. Don’t excite your dog by being playful just before you walk out the door, and don’t encourage playful behavior when you walk in the door. Keep it calm.
- Simply give your dog a pat on the head before you leave.
- When you get back, give him another pat on the head and refrain from throwing a ball or starting another game until he has settled down from the excitement of your return.
- Let your dog be until he calms down, then take him out into the yard and play.
Dogs need both the calm moments and the active moments in life, just as you do. They need physical and mental stimulation not only for their general health, but to help treat behavioral issues. Enrichment of your dog’s day to day life with exercise (going for a walk), play (chasing a ball or Frisbee), socialization (friendly encounters with people and other animals), and lots of affection can offset a number of behavioral issues as well as separation anxiety. Just as with humans, proper exercise and social interaction can help to reduce stress and lead to a longer, happier life for your pet.
An additional bonus to keeping your dog busy is that it will wear him out. A tired dog who is at home alone is much less likely to get into trouble than one who is full of energy.
Having a canine friend in your live means a lot of work on your part, but it can be truly rewarding. With time and patience, you and your furry friend can overcome the potential adversity of anxiety issues, and live happily together for years.