We like to be reassured how much our pets love us, but no one wants to deal with a noisy, destructive pet when they’re trying to leave the house. If your pet shows signs of distress when left alone, he may be suffering from separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety, also easily confused with boredom*, is characterized by a pet that is particularly “clingy” and displays many undesirable behaviors in the absence of its owner. Pets who suffer separation anxiety may chew on belongings that smell like their owner, whine or bark continuously when left alone, and have “accidents” when the owner is gone, even if they are house trained. These pets also closely follow their owner and have the desire to constantly be near them.
Practicing these helpful tips will aid in relieving your pet’s separation anxiety.
- Practice by leaving for short periods of time and returning so your pet can begin getting used to being alone.
- Leaving and returning should be boring for your pet. Ignore them or keep your disposition low-key for at least 15 minutes prior to leaving and 15 minutes after returning home. Making a big fuss about leaving and returning will only make the situation more stressful to your pet.
- When you spend time with your pet, only give him attention on your terms and not when he asks for it. In doing this, you can gradually separate yourself from your pet within the house so they can begin to grasp the concept of independence.
- Desensitize your pet. Grab your keys and coat and follow your typical departure routine without actually leaving to desensitize your pet from becoming stressed during these activities.
- Develop a ‘comfort cue’ that tells your pet “I’m leaving, but I promise to return”. For instance, I make my dog sit and give her a treat every time I’m about to leave. Other ideas are to offer the pet a blanket that smells like you or a favorite toy.
- Wear them out physically and mentally before you have to go away. Fulfilling playtime or a long walk with many sights and smells will make your pet tired and more likely to sleep while you’re gone.
- Leave the TV or radio on for background noise. This helps to soothe anxiety about scary outside noises like the garbage truck or construction sounds.
- Keep your pet busy while you’re away by leaving different toys to play with. Toys filled with treats or snacks hidden around the house will also distract your pet from dwelling on your absence.
- Sign up for pet daycare, get a pet sitter, or leave your pet with a neighbor.
- Crate train your pet to prevent unwanted chewing and destructive behaviors.
Once you develop a consistent routine and learn to ignore your pet’s pleas for attention, your pet will learn how to become independent while you are away and confident that you will return.
*It is probably just a case of boredom if your pet is comfortable being apart from you but is displaying inappropriate behaviors such as chewing and barking. Many of the above mentioned tips are also very useful in relieving pet boredom.