After more than a year of cuddling at your feet while you worked from home, your dog may not be ready for “alone time” when you start going back to work. Separation anxiety in dogs is more common than most people think. Learn the signs of anxiety in dogs and the strategies that can help your pet cope while you’re away from home.
Dog DO Get Separation Anxiety
Even the most calm, well-adjusted dogs (of any age) can experience stress and show signs of anxiety when there is a change in routine at the home. Now, consider that your dog has spent the pandemic year adapting to your perpetual presence. Consequently, your pack animal is going to feel lonely, bored and that can lead to stress and anxiety--and that can result in damage to your home and potentially, endangerment of your pet.
Defining Dog Separation Anxiety
Animal behaviorists and veterinarians look at the context of behaviors and the pattern of behavior in a dog before they label it. By definition, separation anxiety is an emotional response triggered by separation from the person or the companion pet with whom a dog has bonded. Distress due to separation anxiety ranges from mild to severe. Often, the mild signs of separation anxiety are missed or misunderstood by pet owners. The crucial piece of information is: when do these behaviors occur. If the behavior problems occur exclusively when the favorite, bonded individual is absent, that is a strong indication that your dog is experiencing separation anxiety. Usually, these behaviors occur within minutes of being apart, do not remit, and escalate over time.
How Does a Dog Show Anxiety?
Dogs show anxiety in a few different ways:
Excessive vocalization (crying, moaning, howling)
Changes in eating pattern (not eating, overeating, eating too quickly)
Elimination in inappropriate places around the home
Excessive licking or drooling
Frantic, exuberant behavior that is not typical upon the owner’s return
Prepare Your Dog & Prevent Separation Anxiety
The following tips can help you prepare your dog for remaining at home while you are traveling. If, during these “test runs,” you notice signs of anxiety, reach out to your vet for advice.
1. Make Incremental Trips Outside the Home
If you’ve only left your dog alone long enough to go to the grocery store, start extending the amount of time you are out of the house. A few weeks before vacation, spend varying lengths of time outside the home. You want to work up to being away from the house for a full day or even better, overnight. Upon your return each time, note your dog's behavior.
2. Make Departure and Separation Easier for Your Dog
Don’t announce you’re leaving to the dog. Don’t make a big fuss about it.
Minimize departure cues: how you jingle your keys, where you put on your shoes
Leave music playing when you are home and while you are away
Use a large enough crate or a gated area to insure your pet's safety while alone
Provide lots of safe chew toys to keep them busy and gnaw away anxiety
Channel prey instincts by hiding frozen food in hollow bones
If these strategies are not successful and your dog's separation behaviors are concerning, speak with your vet.
Wilmington’s Best Dog Sitters, at Your Service
Many people prefer not to board their cats as a cost savings among other reasons. For example, boarding a cat away from your home can be as anxiety provoking as leaving the cat home alone. A dog sitting service is a loving, compassionate solution for your cat’s care while you are away.
Weather or Not Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters is a highly regarded, local pet service in Wilmington, Delaware. All of our employees are direct hires, not independent contractors. This means your pet can develop a relationship with a trusted animal caregiver while you are away. Your dog (or cat) will receive the attention and affection he’ll miss from you while you are on vacation. Contact us today and see for yourself why Delaware pet owners count on us for taking care of their dogs and cats!
Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Indoor Pet Initiative. “Separation Anxiety.”