One night I came home from work to find our house in disarray. The pungent scent of urine filled the air. Pillows were scattered everywhere, their stuffing torn out. Vases and other knickknacks were reduced to mere shards of porcelain and glass. Some of my books were ripped to shreds. At first, I thought that my apartment had been burglarized but I realized that the burglars couldn’t have missed seeing the flat-screen television, DVD player, and speakers prominently displayed in the living room. The one thing missing was my dog, a large Labrador retriever named Bob. I worriedly searched the rest of the apartment and found nothing else amiss. Upon entering my bedroom, I found Bob under the bed chewing one of my shoes. If that wasn’t bad enough, I saw a pile of dog stool right on my pillow. As I scolded him for making a mess, I wondered why a normally well-behaved dog like Bob could make such a mess. That’s when I learned about pet separation anxiety.
Pet separation anxiety manifests itself in different ways. They can be destructive, as Bob was, or choose to disturb your neighbors with a fit of loud barking and whining. They may also spread their stool and urine in the most unexpected places, such as the inside of your favorite pair of shoes or all over your clothes. They chew and scratch on furniture without compunction. They tend to destroy things that you frequently use and carry your scent, and they do all these things as soon as you leave them alone. They are also wildly excited to see you when you get back, incessantly demanding your attention.
But what can cause this anxiety in our beloved pets? One of the most common reasons is when pets are frequently left alone, they get bored. They may also feel abandoned by their owners. The bad behavior that they manifest is merely a cry for much-needed attention.
So what can you do about it? Teach your pet to recognize a cue signaling your departure, such as picking up your keys and interact with them on your terms and not when they demand it. Try increasing the amount of exercise that your pet gets, but if your time is limited you may want to consider hiring someone to walk your pet. Add more toys for it to chew. During the hours that you are away at work, you might want to hire a dog sitter or putting your pet in daycare. If you have the space, you can set aside an area for your pet. Crates and pens are available in different sizes and materials. Choose one suitable for the size and strength of your pet.
In case of serious separation anxiety cases, consult your veterinarian. They may be able to suggest other available therapies or medication for your pet. You can also consult with pet trainers and do research in print or online for ways on how to train your pet to accept your absence. Internet forums for pet owners can also be a valuable tool for learning effective techniques in handling your pet’s separation anxiety.
But most of all, treat your pet with love and sensitivity. Remember that your pet is only acting out what it cannot verbalize. With a little help, you and your pet can live an anxiety-free existence.
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