Prevention of Separation Anxiety

Here are some suggestions to prevent separation anxiety in your pet. 
1)  Establish a routine for feeding, exercising and training your pet.  Include several quiet periods during the day when the pet will relax in their favorite spot.  It is essential that this be done away from you.  Once you establish the routine, stick with it!  That means weekends as well as on weekdays.  The regular schedule comforts the pet because they know what to expect.
2)  Teach your dog to enjoy their time away from you.  Give them a treat or reward them with a favorite toy that they can only have during their quiet time.
3)  Reward your pet for good behavior.  When they are resting quietly away from you, give them a cookie or shower them with praise. 
4)  Ignore attention getting behaviors.  If the pet crawls into your lap and demands attention, calmly place them on the floor.  Tell them to sit and reward them once they obey.  Follow the ‘nothing in life is free’ mantra. 
5)  Most importantly, leave the pet alone for at least two hours a day.  Even if you are home, place them in their safe area (crate, kennel, room, backyard, etc.,) where they cannot interact with you.  This teaches the pet not to expect 24/7 attention from you.

In practice, I see the most separation anxiety every Fall when children return to school.  During summer break, the pet gets used to having their human family around all the time.  I also see a lot of separation anxiety in pets owned by pilots, flight attendants and other professionals with similar schedules, i.e., gone for several days then home for several days. 

We also need to be conscious of the current trends of either bringing your pet to work or of working from home.   Both of these scenarios may create an environment conducive to separation anxiety.  As you might imagine, pets may panic when they cannot go with or their owner leaves them alone.

I submit that all living creatures need some time by themselves.  We must insure our pets are taught to accept and even enjoy some time without us.  Then, when we are with them, it will be all the more special as we celebrate the wondrous human-animal bond.  

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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