If you’ve ever come home to chewed pillows, messes, or complaints from your neighbor that your pooch won’t stop barking, the odds are pretty high that your pet may suffer from separation anxiety. In many cases, he may even exhibit physical signs of anxiety, such as panting or pacing, as soon as you pick up your keys or put on your jacket. Knowing how to cope with this problem can help keep you and your pet happy.
1. Minimize Arrivals and Departures
If your pet suffers from minor separation anxiety, The Humane Society recommends keeping your departure low key and ignoring the pet for the first few minutes after returning before calmly petting him. A different technique is to avoid touching, talking, or making eye contact with your pet before leaving or when you return.
The idea is to communicate to your pet that the time spent apart is merely routine and no cause for concern. Continue this for anywhere from five minutes to one hour before leaving and after arriving depending on the severity of the anxiety.
2. Leave Your Scent Behind
The Humane Society recommends soothing mild separation anxiety by leaving an article of clothing that you’ve worn recently behind. Some examples include a T-shirt that you slept in, a blanket from your bed, or your pajamas. DogTime recommends leaving long-lasting treats behind to keep your pet occupied after you leave. Alternatively, hide small treats in a pet puzzle, around the house, or in the pet crate to keep him busy while you’re out.
3. Take a Walk
Giving your pet physical exercise and mental stimulation before you leave makes it much more likely that he’ll rest and relax while you’re gone. Take a long walk, play a game of fetch, or go for a vigorous hike or swim to keep your pet content during your absence.
4. Desensitize Your Pet
Desensitizing your pet can be an effective method to help reverse the anxiety that your pet may experience while you’re gone. It is, however, a slow and gradual process. Get your pet used to hearing your keys jingling and all of the activities you engage in before leaving the house. Start by leaving your pet for five minutes, and gradually increase the time to 20 minutes, one hour, and up to eight hours.
5. Talk to Your Vet
In severe cases of separation anxiety, your pet may need extra assistance. The Humane Society recommends talking to your vet about the anxiety problem and considering medication to reduce your pet’s anxiety level while he’s alone. Your vet may also be able to refer you to a behavioral specialist or trainer who can help get you and your pet on the road to calm, happy separations.
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