Tips to Prepare your Pets for Returning to Work or School

We’d all like to be staying home with our fur babies, but it’s that time of year when some of us are called back to school or work.  

Everyone will be getting ready to go back into their regular routines after the Summer holidays, but have you also considered your pets?  

Some pets handle this separation better than others, but if you have a more anxious fur baby, you’d be well aware of the signs of separation anxiety.

SEPARATION ANXIETY IN PETS

Separation anxiety is when a pet displays distress or behavioral problems when left alone or separated from their owner.  Cases can be mild to severe, and the pets breed, genetics and training are all factors in determining the likelihood of this occurring.  

Dogs are also naturally pack animals which offers them strength and protection.  Most dogs do not like being alone and it can cause major problems.  Separation anxiety can start at a young age and can also be due to neglect or another traumatic experience.  It can then start to show itself later in life, after a stressful experience like moving house, or an owner leaving etc. 

If left untreated, this can cause a great deal of emotional stress for your pet.

SIGNS OF ANXIETY TO LOOK OUT FOR

Some symptoms include – 

  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Destroying furniture
  • Self-harming
  • Pacing
  • Peeing in the home
  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Excessive excitement/hyperactivity when you return

It is important that owners recognise these behaviours and never punish your pet because of them.  Instead be patient and reassuring, and look at ways you can better prepare your pets for future separation.

TIPS TO PREPARE YOUR PETS

  • Start Young – It’s important to accustom your pet to being alone from a young age.  Always start with just a few minutes and build up to several hours.  However try not to leave them alone for an entire day as no pet likes to be alone without any interaction for that long.  You can start by disappearing into another room for a few minutes and return calmly.  Then reward your pet if they are calm and relaxed. Build the amount of time up and then eventually leave the house.  If your pet is finding this very stressful, stop the process and restart in a few days.   
  • Build Confidence – Dogs suffering from separation anxiety tend to lack self- confidence and the ability to self-settle.  In order to combat this, they need to feel reassured that they are living in a pack that won’t abandon them.  To do this, give them something to do while you are gone. Provide a nice comfortable place in the home or yard where they feel safe and relaxed and leave lots of mental enrichment.  Then when you do return, try not to make it a big deal.
  • Tire them Out – Before leaving make sure your dog is tired and content.  Expend some of their energy with a long walk or play time to ensure they are in a restful state when you leave. 
  • Leaving Calmly – Running around loudly while you are getting ready and then grabbing keys etc, all create a specific behavioral pattern around leaving.  Try to perform these actions when you’re not about to leave, so your fur baby can disassociate your behaviour from their anxiety.  Also try to be more calm and relaxed when you are leaving, so they don’t panic, and when you return, again, don’t encourage any hyperactivity.  If your pet is still struggling or fretting when you are leaving, try giving them a long lasting chew or their favourite toy or removing them entirely from the area you are leaving from.

OTHER SOLUTIONS

There are several other options if your pet is continuing to show signs of separation anxiety and you need to leave for several hours or the whole day.  

Ask a neighbour or friend to pop over and check on them, or find a pet sitter to either take your dog out for a walk to break up the day.  You can also leave your dog at a doggy day care or pet sitter’s home, and if this is the case, ensure you have well acquainted them beforehand and they are aware of your pet’s anxiety.  

More severe cases may benefit from a professional dog trainer that specialises in separation anxiety.

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