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You go out shopping. You close the door, your dog at your heels, excitedly poking his head into the fresh air and wondering if he’s going to be able to come. He’s not; so you pat him on the head, tell him to behave like he can understand you, and then close the door on his sad face.
When you return several hours later, you find the clean and tidy house you left now resembled the aftermath of a tornado. There’s stuff everywhere, the cushions pulled off the chairs, and even the occasional more permanent bit of destruction. Meanwhile, looking guilty as sin itself, your dog hunkers against the wall and glances around for someone else to blame. But there is no one else to blame: it was the dog that done it, officer.
The obvious conclusion is that your dog has misbehaved. That’s pretty obvious for everyone to see, as you go around clearing a path through the destruction and muttering about how you should have just gotten a fish instead. In the midst of all this though, have you ever wondered why it happens?
Separation Anxiety: It’s A Thing
The above presents a scenario with a dog as it’s the most well-known, but cats and other pets are more than able to show their own penchant for destruction too. No matter what the animal, it’s all a manifestation of the same thing: separation anxiety.
You know that when you leave you’re coming back – but your pet doesn’t. Even if you have been and gone a thousand times in their lives, there’s still no absolute certainty for your pet that you’re going to come back. They become anxious, full of energy, and that has to be expended in some way. Animals are notorious for attention-seeking behavior, and one of the best ways of achieving that is through creating chaos. They vent their energy and create a mess, potentially in the hopes you will come back and give them the attention they crave.
How Can You Deal With It?
Management is about learning to soothe the anxiety rather than changing your routine. While it might be feasible to switch to working from home and always ensuring you take your dog on a vacation, you’re more treating the symptoms than the actual problem.
The best remedy for stress in any animal tends to be exercise. Stress is as big of a health problem for animals as it is for us humans, but you can’t get your dog to take a bubble bath (even if that would be completely adorable) and read his favorite book. Thus your methods of de-stressing your pets are more related to activity, tiring them out so they have less energy for stress – plus animals experience the same rush of “feel good” hormones as humans do!
Should You Medicate Your Pet For Stress?
This is a personal decision, but in general (as vets would agree) the answer is: no, unless you have exhausted all other viable options. For example, if exercise alone isn’t doing it, then hormone-releasing relaxants are available for dogs and cats, providing a more natural method of stress control. Try everything before you decide to try pharmaceuticals.
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I think separation anxiety can be lessened by making your absence habitual to them by leaving regularly for small periods of time and then gradually increasing the time period. You can also use essential oils to assuage their anxiety.