Separation Anxiety

No, please don’t go!
If our dogs could talk, I believe
that this would be their plea.

By Elizabeth Parker

Some are comfortable being alone, however, there are others who watch your every move regardless if they’re in a dead sleep with legs, nose, eyes and ears twitching, in the middle of an action-packed dream.  They will still wake up to follow us even after we take painstaking measures to sneak out of a room. By painstaking, I mean carefully avoiding creaks in the floorboards, softly climbing over toys, chairs and whatever else might be in our way— just to leave for a minute.  Sound familiar?

That’s only a slight case of separation anxiety—nothing urgent.

But, in severe cases, dogs will chew anything and everything, bark, whine, howl, pace, have accidents in the house and become inconsolable until you’re home.

I’m not a trainer, but I’ve had issues with separation anxiety with some of my own dogs and it’s stressful for both the owner and the dog.  The owner feels trapped in their own house and the dog has an unhealthy attachment to their owner.

What Can You Do?
While there are drugs on the market to pacify your dog’s fears, there’s no super drug, so it’s wise to modify the behavior.  Unfortunately, it won’t happen overnight.

Exercise for a healthy dog is key.   Taking your dog on a long walk in the morning and/or evening prior to leaving the house makes them tired which in turn, lessens their anxiety.

Set “False Alarms” 
Have you ever noticed that your dog knows your next move before you do?  From putting down a fork at dinner, to putting on your sneakers.  One way to break them from knowing your routine is to send false alarms.  Put on your sneakers, but then watch television.  Open the front door, and then sit down.  Change the routine that you use before leaving the house.

Part of the reason your dog loses their mind when you leave is that they don’t know when you’ll return.
Start by leaving the house for twenty minutes.  Then gradually increase it to thirty, forty, etc.  While they are alone, make sure they’re in an area where they can’t hurt themselves.

In addition, don’t fuss over them for at least ten minutes before you leave and ten minutes after you return. It’s difficult, but when you make a fuss, you’re drawing attention to the very fact that you are leaving or returning. In essence, they think that this is a time to become excited.  Instead, you want to convey that it is a time to be calm.  If your dog associates excitement with your arrival, they will always be anxious for that particular moment in time.

It’s a slow process, but with persistence and understanding, it’s one that you can work on with your pooch and achieve results. Keep in mind, in some extreme cases, it might be necessary to consult a professional trainer for assistance.

Dogs aren’t the only pet that can be prone to separation anxiety.  Our lovable felines can spend hours missing their owners as well and many of the same tips apply.

If you’ve already established that they are not ill but simply missing you, there’s some things that you can do.

Just like with dogs, the anxiety can be diminished by keeping your cat occupied and exercised while you’re away.  To do so, you can buy some interesting cat toys to keep their minds busy, as well as a perch or climbing apparatus for them to “exercise away their worries.”

In addition,  distraction can help them cope with your absence, so you may want to leave treats scattered around the house hidden in various places where your kitty can sniff them out.  If your cat loves to eat and/or hunt, this gives them something to actually look forward to while you’re gone and keeps them busy for a little while.

As with dogs, if the anxiety becomes unbearable, it’s best to contact a professional for additional guidance.

Elizabeth Parker – Author of Finally Home, Final Journey, My Dog Does That!, Bark Out Loud!, Paw Prints in the Sand,Paw Prints in the Sand: Mission Accomplished, Unwanted Dreams, Phobia, Evil’s Door and Faces of Deception. Available on!