(WFRV) – After spending over a year in quarantine, the world is beginning to reopen and people are spending less time at home. As a result, household pets are now experiencing separation anxiety making the transition back to regular activities difficult for both the pet and the pet parents.
Whether your pet was adopted during quarantine or they have been a household member for years, every pet may experience separation anxiety. PetSmart experts say that identifying and taking steps to manage this anxiety is key to helping ease the transition back to normalcy.
“It’s crucial for pet parents to understand their dog is struggling, and their behaviors are coping mechanisms they can’t necessarily control,” said PetSmart’s consulting Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Crista Coppola. “The first step to understanding your pet is to observe their behavior and determine whether or not separation anxiety is the cause.”
While separation anxiety symptoms vary from pet to pet, a few common symptoms to keep an eye out for are excessive barking and whining, destructive behaviors like shoe and furniture chewing, accidents around the home, and other unusual behaviors like hypersalivation, pacing, or decreased appetite.
Experts acknowledge that owners can’t constantly monitor their pets while they are away from home, and so, they are recommending pet owners set up pet cameras to help monitor their pet’s symptoms while they are away.
After confirming that their pet is experiencing separation anxiety, Coppola recommends pet owners take small steps to adjust their pet’s routine by taking short trips outside of the home without their pet. “Grab your phone, put on your shoes and shake your keys at times other than when you are leaving, and don’t make a big deal about leaving and coming home,” she said. “Let your pup know you’re leaving but come back shortly after, and when you arrive home, say hello and give your pup a chance to settle before engaging in fun activities.”
In between trips away from home, Coppola recommends engaging your pet with physical and mental activities like playtime, games, and puzzles, which can help fulfill pets and keep them happy even when you’re gone. Experts say these mentally stimulating training courses can help pets feel mentally, physically, and emotionally fulfilled and as an added bonus can even help create a stronger bond between you and your pet.
Another option Coppola says owners can consider is taking their trusted companions to a doggie day camp. Coppola reports that this is a great way to ensure pets are in expert care and socialized while their pet parents are away.
“The bottom line is routines are helpful for most pets and even a vacation or a weekend away can disrupt their routine, making pets more susceptible to separation anxiety,” Dr. Coppola said. “As pet parents and pet lovers, it is important to understand how we can prioritize our pets’ mental health and how we can provide them with the tools they need to cope with change now and in the future.”