Dealing with Separation Anxiety in Pets

December 15, 2014

The holiday season is rapidly approaching – the season can bring changes to routine, increased travel and stress. Separation anxiety is considered one of the most common behavioral problems in dogs (some experts believe that cats can be affected as well).  Below you’ll find a few tips for dealing with separation anxiety in pets.

Separation anxiety is a neurological distress response when you or someone your dog loves leaves. This anxiety can be characterized by destructive behavior, inappropriate vocalization and going potty in the house.

Destructive behavior while you are away could be a sign of boredom, the need for more exercise or deep anxieties. If you ignore these behaviors, you could actually make your pet’s anxiety worse!

 

If you suspect separation anxiety, be sure to consult with your veterinarian so that any possible health conditions can be ruled out. Your veterinarian will also be able to advise you if the situation calls for the expertise of an Animal Behaviorist.

Here are 11 helpful tips and suggestions:

  • Do not punish your dog. Since the destructive behavior comes from fear and panic, punishments will not work and could make the situation worse.

  • Stay calm and unemotional when dealing with instances of separation anxiety.

  • Vigorously exercise your pet prior to leaving the house.

  • Quietly reinforce good behavior when you see it.

  • Train your dog to sit, stay and down.

  • Wait until your pet is quiet and calm then initiate contact (petting and play). Ignore attention-seeking behavior. This approach helps to reinforce your position as pack leader which in turn leads to a more confident dog.

  • Make leaving and returning home as low-key as possible.

  • Come home for lunch

  • Take your pet to work

  • Arrange for a pet walker or pet sitter to visit

  • Check out a doggie day care

It’s also important to note that getting another pet will not likely help the situation since the root of the problem is fear of being separated from family — not from being alone.  With patience, persistence and healthy boundaries, you and your pet can overcome separation anxiety.

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