Separation anxiety, and anxiety in general, is an emotion that pets experience just like humans. Separation anxiety in particular is related to being left at home alone and the feelings of worry and boredom that may come with it.
According to Dr. Laura Robinson, DVM, some signs of separation anxiety can include defecating or urinating in the house, being destructive, howling and vocalizing loudly, over-grooming, or pacing back and forth.
How To Prevent Separation Anxiety
- Step 1: Discourage hyper-attachment by resisting to reward them when you first get home, as that is the time that your pet is most excited to see you. It's better to ignore them and let them calm down on their own, allowing you to be the initiator of contact and attention.
- Step 2: Creating a positive, relaxing and enriching environment for when they're left alone can help reduce stress and anxiety. For example, you can give them a special toy or treat upon your departure, or leave the TV or radio on.
- Step 3: Desensitize the separation by disassociating departure cues from you leaving. For example, a lot of dogs can become anxious just by the sound of keys. To desensitize this cue, you can grab your keys and go stand by your door for a few minutes. By not leaving, you are signaling to your dog that keys are not necessarily a signal of you leaving, and is disassociated with that anxious feeling of being alone.
For more on separation anxiety from Dr. Laura Robinson, check out this helpful article:
What Does Separation Anxiety For Dogs Mean? How Do They Feel?