After months at home, our return to work and school means leaving one very important family member home alone. Pet separation anxiety occurs most commonly in pets that become overly attached to their owner. It becomes a serious issue when it is more than a little whining or naughty behavior. However, as Dr. Lee Danks advises, there are some simple things you can do to keep your pet happy as you return to work.
“Our pets thrive on routine. While you have been at home, you have established predictable times for high-value activities like walks, feeds, rest, and playtime. This sudden and unexpected change to being alone for long periods may bring on separation anxiety in some pets” says Dr Lee Danks.
Dr. Lee Danks’s advice is simple. Build up their time at home alone and keep as many routines the same as possible.
His 5 key pieces of advice for preparing your pet for your return to work are:
- Mealtime is the most anticipated event of the day, so be sure to give meals at the same time each day.
- Start creating an exercise routine that you can maintain once you return to work or study.
- Make a comfortable and safe space where your dog is happy to spend time alone. Ensure your dog always has access to clean water and a place to toilet.
- Keep them occupied when alone with their favorite toys and puzzles. Rotate toys each day as a toy that is left around can soon lose its novelty. Integrating ‘occupy’ treats such as rawhide chews or lambs’ ears into their daily ration.
- Practice leaving them alone for small periods, gradually increase time away as your dog gets used to being alone. Start small, then gradually increase from five minutes to ten minutes, 20, 30, and so on. If you can, interchange time away with other members of your family.
So, how will you know if your furry loved one has pet separation anxiety? At one end of the scale, your pet may start showing ‘naughty’ and unwanted behavior such as chewing, barking, or digging. At the other end of the spectrum and the hard to ignore behaviors such as abnormal toileting, destructive behavior, aggression, and other attention-seeking behavior might be seen.
“It is essential to know how to help our pets manage this transition, as knowing what to expect, supports their emotional health, and gives them a sense of control. You will always be the best judge of the mental state of your pet, but be careful not to interpret their behavior the same as you would human beings. While they’re processing similar emotions to us, they express themselves in very different ways” says Dr. Lee Danks.
Most importantly, Dr. Lee Danks advises to remember, your pet is reacting to the absence (or perceived future absence) of their most cherished resource, YOU. Separation-related issues are not naughty behaviors and should not be disciplined. There are always underlying emotional reasons for our pet’s actions. If you are worried or if your pet is displaying behaviors such as escaping, digging, chewing, toileting inappropriately, pacing, or barking, always seek advice from your vet. They will help you understand their behavior and restore their well-being.
Dr. Lee Danks is a Black Hawk Technical Services Veterinarian and has worked in veterinary practices in Melbourne and London. With a particular interest in companion animal nutrition, Dr. Danks has experience in veterinary practice with a focus on the understanding of the nutritional needs of dogs and cats.
Black Hawk’s story is real, and simple – every ingredient matters. Everything they do, every product they make, is all about making sure your pet gets everything they need, and nothing they don’t. Real meat, real veggies. No fillers, no nasties. Nothing but the best for our besties. Black Hawk is focussed on improving the health, happiness, and longevity of our pets. Each delicious meal contains all the nutrients that pets need without any of the fillers, additives, or other nasties.
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