Separation anxiety is a form of extreme stress that manifests itself in pacing, excessive barking or meowing, destructive behaviour, and indoor accidents when you leave the house for a short or extended period of time. Leaving for work in the morning or getting the kids off to school are common triggers.
There are pharmaceutical and holistic approaches to treating severe separation anxiety that when paired with consistent training and veterinary guidance can be very effective. In this article, we’ll look at how behaviour modifications can help lessen the symptoms of extreme anxiety.
Puppies need to be taught patience and rewarded when they wait quietly for extended periods of time. Remember, reward the behaviour that you want. As much as puppy playtime is fun, it’s best to let junior learn to entertain himself on his own. It’s all about building your pet’s confidence.
Starting young is a smart strategy, but that doesn’t mean that older dogs are a lost cause. It will take some patience, but you can still curb an adult or senior dog’s separation anxiety.
If you have a large breed dog, make sure they have plenty of exercises to keep them physically fit and mentally stimulated. After all, a tired dog is a happy dog!
Make Dramatic Exits Less Dramatic
Making a grand entrance or dramatic exit is a huge source of separation anxiety for your pet. Try to be as quiet and nonchalant about your departure as possible.
You can even practice your leaving routine while your dog sits in his crate without actually going anywhere. Leave and re-enter the house several times a day doing everything you would normally do in that situation (like opening the closet to grabbing a coat). The goal is to get your dog used to the types of sounds associated with leaving the house. Once your dog is quiet, you can open the crate door for them and reward them for their good behaviour.
You can also try giving your dog a special treat like a Kong with peanut butter inside when you leave. When there’s a sweet treat on the line, your pet may actually look forward to your next exit!
Create a Sanctuary
While you might enjoy having your dog see you off, it’s better to put them in their crate before you leave.
Make the crate experience as comfortable as possible whether that means leaving the TV on for background noise or covering the crate with a blanket to create a den.
Practice crate training so that your dog learns that crate time is quiet time. You can do this while you’re still at home. Start slow and then gradually increase the amount of time your pet spends in their crate. Let him have his favourite bone or treat, so he learns that the crate is a fun place to be.
Look for a crate with ample room. Your dog should be able to spin around and lay down comfortably while inside.
Consistent training at home builds confidence. Ask your pet to stay in one spot and wait while you go to another room. It’ll take some work and patience (for both of you), but soon your dog will learn which behaviours are acceptable.
Cats and Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is not unique to dogs. Cats can also experience stress when they’re away from their owners. The symptoms to look out for are the same (for example, excessive meowing and relieving himself outside the litter box).
Like dogs, cats should not be rewarded for excessive clinging and neediness. Instead, provide your cat with an environment that is begging to be explored. Your cat will be having too much fun to think about your absence.
Curbing separation anxiety may be a challenge, but it is possible. Talk to your veterinarian about options that will best suit your pet’s specific needs and have fun building your pet’s confidence and rewarding behavior that you welcome.
Did You Know?
In addition to great coverage for traditional veterinary treatment, Pets Plus Us can also cover you for alternative and behavioural therapy? Veterinary consultations to diagnose and treat your pet’s abnormal behaviour, or behavioural problems due to an underlying medical condition, are all eligible expenses. When referred by your veterinarian, we’ll also pay the cost of treatment by a certified animal behavioural therapist.