Separation anxiety is a problem for some dogs. They can experience mild to severe reactions when left home alone. Because cats are thought of as being solitary, independent and aloof, the idea that they miss their owner and experience anxiety when home alone is scoffed at by some people. However, cats are social animals, and some can develop separation anxiety.
The cause for separation anxiety in cats is unknown. Scientists can only speculate, and think it could be caused by genetics and environment. Felines more inclined to become anxious are kittens that were orphaned, weaned too early, or came from a pet store or shelter. If they never learned how to be a confident kitten, s cat has a greater chance of developing separation anxiety A change in routine, like a vacation, new job, loss of a person or pet she was close to, or a new baby can cause a cat to become stressed.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Cats suffering from separation anxiety have a fear of being left alone, even if there are other pets in the home. They become anxious and stressed while you’re getting ready to leave and when you’re walking out the door. They can become upset and anxious when you leave a room or go outside for just a few minutes. You don’t have to actually leave the house to have your cat become distressed. Just the thought of you being gone is enough to trigger an emotional response before you’re out the door.
Cats express themselves in more subtle ways than dogs, and don’t try to scratch through the door, wall or floor, or crash through a window. They aren’t as apt to destroy trim around a door or tear up a couch, and they won’t bother the neighbors with barking, whining or howling. You may not even notice your cat is stressed when you leave the house, if you’ve missed the signals she’s giving you.
We don’t always stop to consider how our dogs feel when they’re left home alone. Since we aren’t there to supervise what’s happening in their lives, “things” may happen while we’re at work that can cause your canine friend to feel stressed out.
Dogs do like routine, but doing the same thing day after day can be boring. Before you can help your dog, you need to first recognize why he’s feeling stressed and then deal with what’s bothering him.
As dog owners, we need to take a look at how our pets see life through their eyes. We leave home and may leave our pets alone for hours. If there are multiple pets in the home, they may be able to keep each other company, as long as they get along. But sometimes when a dog feels trapped inside or becomes bored, stress can cause him to misbehave; however, those aren’t the only reasons why your dog may be stressing out.
Below are some of the things that can cause stress in dogs, and what you can do to help.
Change in a routine. Even though dogs enjoy spontaneous playtime, walks or an afternoon at the beach or park, they want to know “what’s next” in their daily routine. When you wake up in the morning and begin your day, your dog knows exactly what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen each day. You can keep your dog on his regular schedule and spice up his life by spending some additional time with him doing things he enjoys.
Being restrained or confined. Chained dogs deal with a lot of stress when they only have the length of their chain where they can roam. Living on a chain can cause a dog to become stressed out and more aggressive. A sturdy dog pen, on the other hand, gives a dog the freedom to investigate his surroundings safely. Make sure he has a proper shelter with plenty of fresh water, and take him on walks to help him get rid of extra energy. If you have to leave your dog confined in a crate while you’re away, let him out as soon as you get home and make sure he gets plenty of playtime and exercise. Being locked up in a crate can cause a lot of stress.
It can be cute watching your dog tug on backpacks and careening for the door once school’s out, but the sadness some dogs feel in the fall is no laughing matter. The “Dog Days of Summer” could stand for the glorious months pets spend playing and bonding with their youngest owners, but all of the fun winds down in August. The kidlets go back to school and their four-legged best friends are left bereft of company for the majority of the day.
The feelings depressed dogs can go through at this time are very real, and they will need your help to minimize its impact. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to do just that.
Before School Starts
In the weeks before school starts, you can be working on transitioning your pet to his new fall routine. Gradually shift play, exercise and meal times to the times these will occur when school is in session. Don’t forget to also work on a new potty schedule.
It can be hard to lessen contact between pet and child during the times they would normally be in school, but try. If your dog will be spending more time outside or in a certain room while your child is in class, now would be a good time to get her used to it.
If your child is going off to college and is your pet’s primary companion, now is also the time for you – or whomever will be taking over – to start taking a larger role in their care.
Dogs are social beings that patiently sit and watch us and other pets, observing what we do. I never had a problem with my dogs digging up their pen until one of them dug a hole one summer to lie in the cool dirt. When I found the hole, I filled it in to keep the dogs from hurting themselves if they stepped in it while playing. The next day, the hole was back, so I filled it in again. This went on for about a week and then more holes started to appear. My other dogs had learned from the first dog that digging a hole in the shady areas of the pen would give them a cooler place to lie down in.
A door separates my living room from the dining room, and we built an escape window in it so the cats can move between the two rooms and get away from the dogs if needed. One day my dog Keikei was watching the cats jump through the window and I almost fell over laughing when I saw her fly through the opening behind them. I have to admit, I was amazed with her grace and the athletic ability it took for her to actually jump through a small window in a door. Now, I wouldn’t call that bad behavior, but it certainly wasn’t something I wanted or expected her to learn just by watching the cats.
Dogs learn by watching, and if one dog gets away with bad behavior, other dogs in the family may follow their example. To them, it’s not bad if their behavior isn’t corrected. If a dog’s behavior changes, that’s cause for concern because it could be due to a medical issue or behavioral problems like separation anxiety and food aggression. However, a dog that is copying bad behavior is a completely different situation. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between bad behavior and an actual behavioral change.
One reason a dog might end up in a shelter is because their owner didn’t understand why they did certain things, such as bark excessively. Dogs bark when they’re playing, bored, alerting us to danger or because they want attention. Separation anxiety and barking for attention are two different things, but both need to be dealt with before the barking gets out of hand.
There are a variety of reasons why a dog might develop separation anxiety, which I explained in my article “Is it Separation Anxiety, or Something Else?” Barking to get attention is more like the child who keeps tugging on his mom’s arm while she’s talking to someone else. If Mom stops talking and pays attention to the child, an onlooker might say the child is spoiled. Dogs that bark to get attention are also classified as being spoiled. I agree that you can’t allow your dog to try and manipulate your attention by constantly barking. However, referring to a dog or child as being spoiled links behavioral problems to a word that can be offensive to some and often is not true about either the child or the dog.
Dogs learn what we teach them, and we teach them a lot even when we don’t know it. Small dogs can easily become attention-getting barkers because they are small and it’s easy to pick up your small dog when he’s standing with his paws on your leg or lap and barks to get your attention. He learns the way to get your attention is to jump up and bark and you will pick him up. Some dogs bark when they are outside and can’t see their owner. The difference between barking for attention and separation anxiety can be seen in their body language and in the sound of their bark.
My dog Keikei smiles all the time, except when she’s begging for her CANIDAE TidNips™ treats. Then she has the most pathetic, pleading eyes I’ve ever seen! In general, she’s a happy dog. I would say she’s a pretty positive little girl. New research claims dogs can be optimistic or pessimistic, and that if a dog shows separation anxiety, they are also showing pessimistic tendencies. According to the research, if your dog frantically barks as you drive off, destroys furniture, chews up socks and decorates your door with scratch marks, they are pessimistic. A research team from the University of Bristol in England came to this conclusion after testing 24 dogs to see how they would react to a bowl full of food placed in a controlled positive position, and an empty bowl in a negative position.
The study was conducted with shelter dogs. Each dog was taken into a room with a researcher where the person played and talked to the dog for 20 minutes. The next day, the person stayed for five minutes and then left the dog alone. They wanted to test the dogs for signs of separation anxiety.
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