Pets are sensitive beings. They develop a close social bond with humans, hence they may develop separation anxiety when you are ready to leave the house or you are away from home, leaving the dog alone for several hours.
Have you noticed that your pet starts to bark at you when you pick up the car keys, put on your shoes or bag to leave the house? Have you noticed your belongings torn and chewed to pieces while you were away? Have your neighbours been complaining about the incessant barking or bawling by your dog while you are away from home? Does your dog want to jump over you as soon as you enter the house?
These are all signs and symptoms of separation anxiety. Other important signs are refusing food, overeating, digging holes, scratching at doors and windows, having indoor accidents, excessive pacing, trying to escape or aggressive behaviour. If not treated appropriately and early enough, it might lead to sleep disorders and even result in severe mental disturbance and disorders.
Here are some ways of managing separation anxiety in your dog:
- Give your dog plenty of vigorous exercise, both physical and mental. Take your dog for a walk before you leave the house. Make it brisk and energy expending. Also play training games and interactive puzzles to work your pet’s mind. Then reward your pet’s calm and submissive energy with food and water. The idea is to leave the pet in a calm, quiet and resting mode while you are away. A tired and happy dog is less likely to be stressed by your leaving.
- Keep your coming and going low key without too much fuss. To make your pet feel that your going out is no big deal, try to avoid cuddling, talking or even touching for 10 or 20 minutes before leaving the house and also after coming back home.
- Many owners just need to cuddle and tell their pets how much they are going to miss them while they are going to be away. If you do not want to go away without saying goodbye to your pet, try saying it a lot before you leave.
- If your dog starts to get anxious when it sees signs of your leaving, eg, picking up your car keys, putting on your shoes, or picking up your bag, retrain him. Pick up your keys but don’t leave, put on your shoes but keep working on your computer. Pick up your car keys but do some work around the house. When you do this several times a day your pet will start feeling less anxious about the signs of your leaving. Then train it to stay in a room while you leave with the keys/ bag and reappear after some time. Using the stay game, you can slowly increase the period of time you are gone.
- It is important to slowly increase the length of time you are going to leave your pet alone. Start with leaving it alone for 5 to 10 minutes initially. Slowly increase the time you spend away, until you can leave for 8 hours at a stretch without any problem.
- Leaving your television on or an audio playing may be a good idea because the sounds make the pet feel there are people around.
- When you are leaving the house, leave with a confident look and without any guilt. The confidence makes the dog feel like everything is fine.
- Leave some of your clothes around that smell of you to make your pet feel you are around
- It may help to give your pet a special treat, like a puzzle tray or a licki-mat filled with peanut butter while you are gone. Take it away as soon as you get back. Keep the treat for only the time that you are out.
- Do consider talking to your Vet about any possible serious problems, as also giving your pet a calming medicine if the above methods do not work.