For over a year now, working from home and keeping social circles due to COVID-19 has meant people can spend more time with their pets. However, as more Americans get vaccinated and restrictions eased across the country, many are likely to spend less time at home with their pets. Therefore, pet parents should be prepared to recognize the signs of separation anxiety and help their pets cope with them.
Leaving pets at home alone can display behaviors that could suggest they have separation anxiety. It’s not a new problem, but it can get more pronounced as pet parents spend less time at home, whether they’re going back to work full-time or just leaving the house. It can be especially difficult for pets that made their homes during the pandemic, as being alone can be a stark contrast to what they’re used to. In these cases, pets can have difficulty coping with being alone.
To help pet parents identify separation anxiety in their pets and enjoy time to themselves, check out these tips from Dr. Crista Coppola, PetSmarts Animal Behavior Consultant and Separation Anxiety Expert.
How do I recognize separation anxietyBehavioral changes are some of the most common indicators of separation anxiety. These behaviors are coping mechanisms and can include excessive barking or whining, destruction near exit points or windows, home accidents, excessive salivation, ups and downs, decreased appetite, and depression. To better understand what your pet is experiencing, put a video camera up when you leave to see how it will behave when you are not around.
Here’s how to prepare your pet for separationUnpredictability has been shown to cause stress for many animals, including dogs, Coppola said. However, routines can help many pets deal with stressful situations. Since a vacation or long weekend getaway brings a change in your pet’s routine, these seemingly small changes can make them prone to separation anxiety. If you know that a change is imminent, slowly introduce your pet to the idea of being alone beforehand to help your four-legged friend prepare. Start with short trips outside of your home without your pet – even if it’s only for a few minutes – and consider leaving treats or toys to enjoy alone.
When you’re ready to leave the house, set up a cozy, welcoming space for your pet where they can’t destroy objects or injure themselves trying to escape. In the event of an accident, consider an area without a carpet or install a dog door so that you can go outside if necessary. Before any time alone, your pet may be more likely to spend at least some of the time you rest engaging your pet mentally and physically, by walking or running, or doing some quick trick training.
During your absence, Coppola recommends providing your pets with enriching activities like puzzles, chewing, and calming aids like the Adaptil Calm On-the-Go dog collar. Soothing vests like the vet recommended thundershirt can also make it easier for pets to transition.
Solutions to Coping with FearIf your pet barks excessively or displays destructive behaviors, never punish them or avoid expressing disappointment or frustration, Coppola said. Feeling this way is understandable, but it can make your pet even more upset and add to the stress they may already be feeling. Instead, spend time having fun together when you are at home and consider an option like PetSmart’s Doggie Day Camp. Available in more than 200 locations in full-day or half-day sessions – including themed play dates – your furry friend receives expert grooming, exercise, mentally stimulating playtime, and socializing with other pups.