Managing your pet’s separation anxiety

With a lot of us working from home, I’m sure your pets have been enjoying and lapping up the extra cuddles. However, when the time comes to go back to work, you may start seeing some signs of separation anxiety, where your pet has emotional withdrawals from your attachment. In our recent interview with Lesley, a certified trainer from Paws for Applause, she offers a few tips on how to manage the situation.

View the video here.

Signs of separation anxiety

Dogs are very sociable animals. Historically they have always lived in packs or “family” groups and, if they had the choice, would prefer this way of living. Cats, on the other hand, are more independent and rarely suffer from separation anxiety. 

Some dogs crave the companionship of humans and some dogs are happier with other dogs but either way they would prefer not to be alone for long periods of time.  

Most dogs should cope with being left for a few hours, particularly if they have been brought up this way from a young age but if your dog shows any of the following signs then they could be suffering from separation anxiety:

  1. Your dog follows you from room to room when you are at home and becomes anxious when they cannot see you.
  1. They become distressed when you prepare to leave the house. 
  1. They are elated when you return home.
  1. They show any of these physiological symptoms in relation to being on their own: panting, pacing, salivating/drooling, drinking excessively, increased heart rate, increased respiration rate and a need to go to the toilet. 

Tips for managing your pet’s anxiety

There is no quick fix for this issue but with time and patience you can make your dog feel less worried and more relaxed when they are on their own.

  1. Choose a dedicated space or a room for your dog to stay in, to feel safe and comfortable.
  2.  If your dog hasn’t been crate trained, then introducing a cage at this stage may cause more stress so use stair gates to create barriers. 
  3. Have a comfortable bed, water and food bowls and maybe a radio for company – remember if your dog is a chewer to ensure these items are safe for them. 
  4. Leave something in that area with your smell to give the dog a sense of security and try using a diffuser also.  

Training to manage without your presence

Now, choose a few days when you know you will be home and not have to leave the dog for too long. Throughout the first day randomly pop your dog in their safe area with a chew or filled Kong toy (chewing is a calming activity for a dog) stay close but go about your business for a few minutes then open the gate, the dog can then choose to come out or carry on chewing in there. 

Build this up over the next few days to longer sessions with you going out of sight occasionally and eventually you should be able to leave the house knowing you have a calmer dog at home.

What about cats?

If you think your cat may be suffering from separation anxiety then try using a pheromone diffuser, make a safe comfortable place for them to hide – either up high or in a box and start by going out for very short periods of time and building this up slowly.  

In some instances, for both cats and dogs, you may need specialised advice depending on how extreme the signs are – if you think this is the case it’s always better to speak to your vet before contacting a behaviourist. 

Remember your friendly Veterinary Nurse is always available to help you and to discuss any issues or concerns you have with your pet.

MyPetBuddy is a community of devoted pet lovers and can connect you with sitters and walkers – so if you are not able to make it home after a long period of time you can call on the community to help you with playdates, walks and care. 

MyPetBuddy premium members also have access to a 24/7 vet support line for any questions or support during the separation anxiety training process or contact Paws for Applause on INFO@PFADOGTRAINING.COM

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