Most of us are having trouble coping these days, but family pets sure are enjoying their jobs. They fill very important roles for us in uncertain times as our support system, and we depend on them for their unconditional love, reassurance, and utter devotion.
But what will happen to this dynamic if/when we return to work or school? Will pets just automatically resume their previous schedules? What about animals adopted right before the country shut down? They haven’t experienced large amounts of “me time” since arriving at their new homes.
Pet separation anxiety is a natural consequence, and there are ways to prevent and treat it.
Understanding Your Pet’s Feelings
The animals we share our lives with are highly attuned to us. They can intuit how we’re feeling, and some even react in kind. Conversely, we can sense how our pets are feeling and do our best to provide solutions.
What Is Pet Separation Anxiety?
When a pet fears solitude, they may cling to their owners or even try to block the exit. They may bark or whine uncontrollably, try to escape the house, urinate or defecate inside, destroy their owner’s personal items or furniture, and overreact to their owner’s arrival with irrational exuberance. Alternatively, a pet may hide or withdraw when there is any indication that their person is preparing to leave, such as grabbing the keys, putting on shoes, etc.
Ways to Help Your Pet Transition
Pets need training in order to realize that their owner is not leaving forever, but making the transition from warm, wonderful togetherness to being/feeling separated isn’t a quick or easy process.
- Start slowly by leaving for a few minutes at a time. Gradually lengthen your time away by 5-15 minute increments.
- Before you leave, give your pet an opportunity to burn off any energy with a long walk/jog, a game of fetch, or just play time.
- Provide a brain puzzle for them to keep them busy in your absence. If it has a delicious reward, like a peanut butter filled Kong, your pet will begin to associate your leaving with a tasty treat.
- Don’t make a big deal about leaving, or coming back. Stay neutral and calm. Only give your pet attention when they stop freaking out that you’ve returned (easier said than done, of course!).
- Again, exercising them at the end of the day will help relax and soothe any frayed nerves.
- Hire a pet sitter or dog walker if your pet demonstrates they can only cope with 2-3 hour stretches apart. A doggie daycare may also help a dog transition to their new reality.
Coping for the Long Term
Pet separation anxiety is a normal behavior with varying degrees of severity, but if it’s ignored or untreated it can develop into a more serious problem affecting quality of life. Likewise, the strain on the human-animal bond must be dealt with promptly.
If you notice that your pet’s symptoms are getting out of hand, let us know. We can assist you with further behavioral training or recommend certain prescription medications if all else fails.