If you have ever come home from work to find that your beloved dog has turned your home into a disaster area by chewing up your favorite shoes, shredding the throw pillow, digging in the trash, or even worse, leaving you a nasty surprise on your bed, rest assured–he didn’t do it to punish you. Dogs, and cats too, can suffer from separation anxiety, which is a panic response to being separated from the humans that they love so much. If your pet acts depressed or anxious while you are preparing to leave; or greets you with frantic excitement when you come home; or even follows you from room to room when you are together, he may suffer from separation anxiety.
Pets love constant human companionship. That’s why pets with separation anxiety become distressed at the thought of being left alone. This exaggerated fear of being separated often causes abnormal behaviors such as fearfulness, clinginess, incessant barking, inappropriate urination or defecation, destroying objects, vomiting, loss of appetite, and the list goes on and on. Some pets start exhibiting these behaviors before you leave and others wait until shortly after you have left. One thing is certain; the results can cause the owner much frustration and stress.
There are many ways to cope with or treat separation anxiety including behavior modification and/or a prescribed anti-anxiety medication. If available, you may want to take your dog to a doggy day care or have a friend watch your pet while you are away. And if you understand what triggers the anxiety, you can develop ways to lessen or eliminate the triggers to help your pet unlearn his panic response. For example, pets learn over time when you are about to leave them by cues you inadvertently use. Keys rattling, organizing the items in your purse, or maybe even a routine mirror check just before you walk out the door. Try rattling your keys throughout the day without leaving. Or going out repeatedly, at first for short periods of time and then gradually extending the time that you are away. And don’t make a big deal about departures and arrivals. You may also want to leave toys for stimulation and clothing that you have recently worn so that you pet can smell your scent while you are gone.
There are many ways to treat and overcome your pet’s anxiety so that they can enjoy or at least tolerate your time apart. But some things that won’t help are punishment, crating, loud radio/TV noise or obedience training. While training is always good, this type of anxiety is not caused by disobedience or lack of training. It is usually just the result of their desire to be with you. And that is the unconditional love that makes owning a pet such a joy.
For more information on separation anxiety, visit these websites.