With kiddos heading off to school and many adults heading back into the office in this pandemic, we veterinarians are seeing more cases of “separation anxiety” in dogs. After all, our pets have been used to having the people they love around them for so long.
A dog with true separation anxiety excessively howls, barks, drools, pants, whines and paces when you are gone. They might also have frequent “accidents” and chew, dig or scratch furniture, all in an effort to escape and find you. Remember, a typical dog might do some of these things once in a while, but one with separation anxiety will do them almost all the time.
To help, you can give your pet a small treat each time you leave. This way, they learn to look forward to it and worry less about the separation. Try leaving some recently worn clothing near their kennel or sleeping area to remind them of you. It is hard to do, but you can also ignore your pup for the first few minutes after you get home. This helps make your re-entry less of an “event” that triggers their emotions.
Many of my clients have also undergone obedience training, which can help teach your dog skills and to better accept praise for good, calm behavior. Others have introduced a second dog to the family, so the pet who is experiencing frequent separation anxiety has a “buddy.” This can be a good idea if both pets get along and if your home and lifestyle are equipped to enjoy multiple furry family members.
We also recommend your pet to get a few hours of activity throughout the day. Playing fetch and walking your dog makes them happy. It also tires them, and the chances are good they will simply lie down to rest while you are gone.
Finally, if all of these methods won’t work, there are calming medications veterinarians can prescribe if the owner prefers. In the midst of it all, try to appreciate your pet’s loyalty. It is comforting to know our pets love and miss us unconditionally.