As we begin to get a handle on our new normal many of us are preparing to return to our workplaces and our regular workdays; so what does this mean for our pets? Whether they are new to your family or not, your pets have reveled in your glorious presence 24-7! Some retraining of habits may now be in order to reduce the chance of your pet experiencing separation anxiety. Start changing their schedule now to help them later!
First, here’s a quick overview of what separation anxiety looks like from mild to severe: “sad” posture and following you around; barking after you leave for a period of time; mildly destructive behaviors like digging, ripping papers, counter-surfing; over-enthusiastic greetings on your return (barking, leaping, spinning); pacing and drooling; repetitive sharp methodical bark that continues for some time (your neighbors will tell you!); peeing or pooping in the house after they are housebroken; development of “worry spots” or areas on their body that your animal is constantly licking; ripping up pillows or furniture; scratching of window and doorframes, doors, walls beside doors, pulling down blinds or curtains; digging out under fences or gates and escaping; and the most serious: doing actual physical harm to themselves in an attempt to “escape” their feelings. Basically, the behavior displayed indicates the degree of anxiety your friend is experiencing with your absence.
Do not despair! There are many ways to help your animal cope and retrain them to tolerate your absence. Start working on these habits as soon as you hear you may be returning to work.
- If your animal is already crate-trained, remind them of the basics using treats, short times inside while you are around the house and releasing them frequently then longer times while you go outside and return to release them. Stay calm when you release them, don’t make it a party just make it seem “normal”.
- If you don’t wish to crate-train your friend other options can include mat training—essentially training them to stay in “their spot” using “go to” commands, treats, toys and chews. If your friend already has a cozy spot they seem to enjoy, take advantage of it and train them to go there on command. This is also really useful for human dinnertime and guests! You can also set up a baby-gate system (usually in your kitchen).