5 Ways to Ease Your Pet's Back-to-School Anxiety
When classes begin, it signals the end of long days spent lounging around the house, not doing homework and playing with our furballs. It also might signal the beginning of a kind of separation anxiety for pets that have gotten accustomed to spending time with their human pack members.
According to Dr. William Craig, DVM, of PurinaCare Pet Health Insurance, you might notice your pet exhibiting some behaviors that are unwanted, like constant vocalization, uncontrollable elimination or destructive actions like tearing apart pillows and turning over furniture.
As you're busy prepping for the new year, keep these five tips in mind to help ease your pet's back-to-school separation anxiety – though we won't be able to say the same for your kids'.
1. Understand where the behavior is coming from. "This is a psychosis, just like claustrophobia or fear of heights in people," Craig tells PEOPLEPets.com. "When this anxiety attack sets in, the dog really has no control over its behavior. They're in a panic and they don't know how to escape from the situation."
2. Wean them into it. Start by going away for short periods of time, but come back in a few minutes' time. Your pet will think, "Just because everybody leaves doesn't mean I've been abandoned. They'll be back." Then, gradually lengthen those times of departure.
3. Take the drama out of leaving. "When you leave in the morning, it's important not to make a big scene out of your departure," Craig says. "Get your things together and go." The same goes for coming home again. "When you return in the evening, your dog is going to be turning back flips and so excited to see you, and your natural response is going to be to engage with the dog. That's very unproductive." Wait until your pet has settled down before interacting with it.
4. Create a safe zone. Have a blanket or bed in a place that's a common gathering area, one that your pet associates with comfort. Then, interact with your pet in this safe zone when you're at home, giving them treats to play with while they're there. They'll be able to retreat there when they're home alone.
5. Don't punish unwanted behavior. "Negative reinforcement just doesn't work at all," Craig says. "Punishing the behavior is just illogical." Instead, encourage calm behavior, and if you find yourself getting upset about what happened while you were out, move your pet out of the room while you clean up and collect yourself.