Leaving Home: Separation Anxiety 101

By Lesley White, Owner, Peak City Puppy

While we would love to spend all day snuggling and playing with our pets, the reality is that we have to leave our animals alone for at least some time during the day. For pets, being left alone can be stressful, and can cause anxiety that can become out of control. However, with some time and attention, you and your pet can master separation anxiety, providing better outcomes for the both of you.

What is Separation Anxiety?

Just like we are all sad to see a friend go after not seeing them for a long time, your pet misses you and your company when you are away. However, when your pet missing you turns into destructive behaviors or causes undue stress on your animal, we call that separation anxiety. This type of anxiety is common, especially in young animals, pets who are not used to being home alone and senior pets. However, any pet can start displaying signs of separation anxiety at any time in their lives.

What Are the Signs?

If when you leave the home your pet gives you the sad eyes, that is completely normal behavior. After all, you’re his best friend and he would rather you stay and play with him all day long. Separation anxiety is much more than that, and some symptoms include:

  • Intense pacing, digging or panting

  • Loud barking, howling or crying

  • Destructive tendencies like excessive chewing of furniture

  • Potty accidents inside the home

Although most pets will display at least one of these symptoms from time to time, if it becomes a habit whenever you leave your home, your animal may have separation anxiety.

My Pet Has Separation Anxiety, Now What?

First things first, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about separation anxiety to ensure that there are no health issues associated with the behaviors your pet is displaying. While you’re there, you can talk to your vet about your concerns and he or she may have some tips for you, or even some medications to recommend if the case is serious enough. However, when you get home, you can help ease anxiety in your pet by doing these four things:

  • Create a normal routine for your pet. If you leave for work everyday, having a schedule will help your pet know what to expect on any given day. To minimize the time your pet will stress, try to minimize your activities in the morning as much as possible. This could include packing your lunch and briefcase the night before if your pet gets upset at the sight of these items.

  • Exercise your pet before you leave. Pets are less anxious when they are tired and taking your pet for a walk or playing with your pet indoors for a while before you leave can not only get rid of some of their nervous energy but also help them associate your departure with something positive.

  • Leave your pet with a calm place to rest. Many pets get anxious when they are alone in an expansive area with lots of loud noises. If your pet has separation anxiety, try leaving soft music on for them or leave the television on to fill your home with normal sound. Whether or not your pet is crate trained, you should create a sanctuary for them to relax in while you are away. Make sure they have plenty of bedding to enjoy. For more information on crate training your pets, check out Crate Training 101.

  • Provide stimulation for your animals during your absence. For many pets, this means sturdy and durable toys to play with solo and long-lasting treats to enjoy. Here at Peak City Puppy, one of our favorites is a sturdy rubber toy stuffed with pet-friendly peanut butter. You can even freeze it to make it last longer!

If following these tips don’t cure your pet of their separation anxiety, dog walking services from Peak City Puppy will certainly help. Our trained dog walkers and pet sitters are specially trained to deal with energetic pets who need a little extra TLC. While you’re away, our trained professionals can help keep your pet company, give them the love they crave and the exercise they need.

To learn more about how walking services from Peak City Puppy can help give you peace of mind, visit www.PeakCityPuppy.com.

Lesley White is the owner of Peak City Puppy, a Triangle-based Dog Walking & New Puppy Potty service now in its tenth year serving clients in Apex, Cary, Holly Springs, Raleigh, Morrisville and now New Hill.