Dogs are well-known pack animals that derive security and pleasure in numbers. Because of this, they may experience separation anxiety after a long summer with the kids home from school once classes begin again. While a few months might not seem like much to us, for animals (with no sense of time) it can seem like an eternity. Once they get used to having a pal around all the time, it can be very upsetting for that constant companionship to end abruptly. Here are five tips for easing separation anxiety in pets after a busy summer filled with fun.
1. Start Slowly
Before your kids are back to school full time, begin to ease your furry little beast into being on his or her own for short periods of time. This will make things much easier once school starts and they won’t feel suddenly abandoned. Dogs can suffer from sadness, loneliness and depression just like people, so over the next few weeks slowly increase the length of time they are left alone before that first classroom bell rings.
2. Avoid Sensational Greetings
Regardless of age, most dogs come unglued at your arrival. They are so happy to see you you’d think from their behavior that you’d been gone a month, not the afternoon. When you come in, rather than caving to their spastic greeting, let them settle down first before giving them attention, affection or treats. This way your return doesn't equate to a major event. This tip is also useful for dogs that are piddlers when you or someone else enters the home. Wait ‘til they settle down before petting them and you can avoid the puddles.
3. No Scolding
Speaking of urine, one of the signs of separation anxiety is leaving unexpected “gifts” around the house in the form of feces or urine. Another is destructive behavior, like ripping things up. They may also exhibit seemingly uncontrollable whining and barking. It’s easy to get annoyed by these things, but while you’re easing them back into the routine of being solo it’s actually counter-productive to scold them for these petty offenses. Some experts hypothesize that it could actually make things worse.
4. Keep them Occupied
This is somewhat of a no-brainer, but the busier you can keep your pet the less time they have for dwelling on their sudden loneliness. Before family members depart for the day, provide your dog with a new bone, chew toy, food game puzzles that require thought and manipulation or what a lot of manufacturers are calling science toys. These are toys that blink, hop, roll, make noises and other craziness that many dogs enjoy interacting with. Your pet will soon associate your leaving with rewards rather than despair.
Note: Do not leave pets unsupervised with any treats, toys or products without first familiarizing yourself with the packaging. You’d be surprised at the number of them that require supervision.
5. Electronic Pet Sitters
A lot of people have someone come in once a day to let their dogs out, take them for a walk or just hang with them for a half hour. If this is something that is not feasible for you, then consider getting your pet an electronic pet sitter. There are several of them on the market right now such as PetCube and PetChatz. These devices allow you to monitor your pet’s activities through a camera and speaker system so that you can not only keep an eye on them but interact with them as well. They are relatively inexpensive and work with an app via your smart phone.
By taking these steps you should be able to acclimate your pup back into the family's work and school schedule in no time at all. Good Luck!