For over a year, working from home and keeping social circles restricted due to COVID-19 has allowed people to spend more time with their pets. However, as more Americans are vaccinated and restrictions loosen across the country, it is likely that many will spend less time at home with their pets. As a result, pet parents should be prepared to spot signs of separation anxiety and help their pets cope.
When left alone at home, pets may exhibit behaviors that could indicate they are suffering from separation anxiety. This is not a new problem, but it may become more pronounced as pet parents begin to spend less time at home, return to work full-time, or simply leave home. more often. This can be especially difficult for pets who have found their forever home during the pandemic, as being alone can be a stark contrast to what they’ve grown used to. In these cases, pets may have a hard time learning to fend for themselves.
To help pet parents identify separation anxiety in their pets and spend time alone, consider these tips from Dr. Crista Coppola, Animal Behavior Consultant and Separation Anxiety Expert at PetSmart.
How to identify separation anxietyBehavior changes are among 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, accidents around the house, hypersalivation, stimulation, decreased appetite, and depression. To better understand what your pet is going through, consider installing a video camera when you leave to see how they behave when you are away.
How to prepare your pet for separationUnpredictability has been shown to add stress to many animals, including dogs, Coppola said. Routines, however, can help many pets cope with stressful situations. Because a vacation or long weekend getaway involves a change in your pet’s routine, these seemingly minor changes can make them susceptible to separation anxiety. If you know the change is coming, slowly introduce your pet to being alone beforehand to help your four-legged friend get ready. Start by taking short trips outside your home without your pet – even if it’s only for a few minutes – and consider leaving some treats or toys behind to make the alone time more enjoyable.
When you’re ready to leave the house, create a comfortable and inviting space for your pet, where they can’t destroy items or injure themselves while trying to escape. Consider an area without carpeting in the event of an accident or install a dog door to allow egress if necessary. Before any period of alone time, mentally and physically engaging your pet by going for a walk or a run, or working out on a brisk workout, can make them more likely to spend at least part of the time you’re away from resting.
While you are away, Coppola recommends providing enrichment activities such as puzzles, chewing, and calming aids like the Adaptil Calm On-the-Go Dog Collar for your pets. Calming vests like the vet-recommended Thundershirt can also help pets make the transition.
Solutions to deal with anxietyIf your pet barks excessively or exhibits destructive behavior, never punish him and avoid expressing disappointment or frustration, Coppola said. It’s understandable to feel this, but it can further upset your pet and add to the stress they may already be feeling. Instead, spend time having fun together when you’re at home, and consider an option like PetSmart’s Dog Day Camp, which can help ease the transition by gradually introducing your pet to the amount of time left. alone. Available in over 200 locations in full day or half day sessions – including themed play dates – your furry friend will receive expert care, exercise, play time mentally stimulating and socializing with other puppies.