Category Archives: separation anxiety

Back to School for Kids and Pets

By Linda Cole

Once again, summer vacation is coming to an end for millions of kids around the country. Hopefully, pets were able to spend quality time with their little humans, but like all good things, summer vacation is over and children are off to another year of school. Suddenly, pets are left with nothing to do and boredom can set in. When kids go back to school, what’s a bored pet to do with all the extra time they now have?

Parents are usually the only ones happy to see summer vacation end as kids prepare for their first day of class, a year older and hopefully wiser. Pets, on the other hand, have no idea what’s going on. The first day of school is a flurry of activity as parents pry kids out of bed, which is way too early after a summer of sleeping in. Parents and kids rush out the door so everyone can get where they need to go on time. The house is quiet and the poor pet is still sitting in the middle of the kitchen, alone and confused. Where did everyone go?

Pets don’t do well with sudden changes in their routine, and that’s exactly what back to school means for them. Routines make them feel safe and comfortable. This is the time of year when pets can become confused, depressed or exhibit signs of separation anxiety when the routine they grew accustomed to all summer suddenly changes. Pets get used to certain things happening at a certain time, or close to it, each day. Once school starts, watch your pet for signs of boredom or separation anxiety. This can become a problem when a dog or cat who is used to having someone around most of the day is left on their own to figure out how to entertain themselves.

Sit down with your kids and talk to them about responsible pet ownership. This is a good time to remind them their four legged friends need attention from them after school. Pets don’t require a lot of our time, and spending an extra fifteen minutes in the morning before school exercising the dog will help him get through the day until everyone is back home in the afternoon. A walk or playtime in the backyard after school will reassure a pet they haven’t been forgotten.

Cats don’t usually tear up furniture or leave claw marks on the front door, but even they can experience separation anxiety when it’s time for kids to go back to school. Pets don’t understand why the summer routine they grew accustomed to has suddenly changed, and bored pets can be destructive. Separation anxiety can turn into a serious behavioral problem if it’s not dealt with. Establishing a new routine that includes all members of the family will help kids learn more responsibility in the care of their dog or cat, and help pets deal with their time home alone once they know what to expect before and after school.

Since a pet’s routine will change when the kids head back to school, now is the perfect time to help ease them into a new schedule before they’re left on their own. Start by having your kids give the dog or cat extra attention in the morning. Go for a walk, play tug a war or wiggle a toy for the cat. Once a pet realizes someone will return home to give them attention at a certain time, they have something to look forward to that can help them pass the hours. They may still be bored, but once a pet learns the new schedule, they’re willing to wait for the kids get home from school.

Ask your kids to think of games or activities they can do with their pet to help them adjust to a new routine. Have the kids help put out toys for pets to entertain themselves with while everyone’s gone. Hide treats around the house to give a bored pet something stimulating to do. Fill treat toys for dogs to chew on. If your dog stays in a crate when everyone’s gone, start now and give him time to gradually adjust to spending more time in his crate.

Back to school means a new routine for the entire household and everyone needs to adjust, but it doesn’t have to be upsetting for pets. With a plan in place and your kids help after school, pets can adjust to a new schedule knowing they haven’t been forgotten. They can still spend time with the ones they love. It’s just at a different time of the day.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Is it Separation Anxiety, or Something Else?


By Linda Cole

We all know what separation anxiety is. A dog just can’t stand being away from the people he loves. Left alone, the dog might whine, howl or bark all day which isn’t good if you live in an apartment. He may also destroy things in the home or scratch up the doors and windows. He gets all worked up and so do the neighbors. But, there could be something else going on that has nothing to do with a dog missing his owner.

Separation anxiety has become a sort of catch-all for behavioral problems. But it could also be boredom or a disease. No one knows why some dogs seem to miss their owner more than others. Some become anxious even with the owner at home but in a different room. Destructive chewing, howling or constant barking, drooling and doing their business inside are all symptoms of separation anxiety. Some dogs become so worked up they chew on themselves, causing self inflicted injuries. A mild case can be dealt with easily whereas a more severe case may require medication and/or working with an animal behavioral expert to help solve the dog’s anxiety.

A bored pet can be as destructive as one who misses his owner, but the two problems are quite different. Boredom can be solved with exercise before you leave the house and chew toys stuffed with dog treats. But before you can solve the mystery of whether your dog is destroying your couch because he’s bored or because he’s experiencing separation anxiety, you need to determine which problem you are dealing with. Discussing the issue with your vet can help.

There are medical reasons why your dog may be exhibiting what appears to be separation anxiety. Cushing’s disease, seizures, diabetes, renal disease, gastrointestinal problems or cystitis could be the problem. A fear of thunderstorms that increases when you are gone can upset some dogs enough that they howl or chew to help relieve their fear. Cognitive dysfunction, needing to go outside, marking their territory, a pup who is teething and not being completely housebroken can all be symptoms that you should have your dog checked out by a vet or an animal behaviorist, or spend extra time working on housebreaking and basic training.

Separation anxiety can begin at any age and for a variety of reasons. If you’ve moved into a new home, your dog may not feel as comfortable in his new surroundings. Separation anxiety can occur is you adopt a new dog who isn’t accustomed to you, their new environment or a new routine. It might manifest if your work schedule changes and you don’t have as much time to spend exercising and playing with your dog.

Other causes of separation anxiety include: a new baby in the home; new people living in your home; other changes in your living arrangements; a death in the family which can be a human or another pet. Separation anxiety might occur if your dog had an extended stay in a kennel or at the vet, or if you’ve adopted a new puppy or kitten. Your dog needs to know he hasn’t lost your love, so any time there’s a change, it’s important to reassure him he’s still your buddy. Dogs feel most comfortable and secure when their routine is maintained from day to day. Before making changes that are in your control, talk to your vet for recommendations on how to best implement the change so your dog doesn’t feel threatened. Changes you can’t control, like a death, may need to be dealt with by an expert if your dog continues to grieve.

Don’t assume your dog has separation anxiety just because it’s an easy explanation for why your dog is misbehaving. Any of the diseases mentioned above, boredom or lack of proper training could be the culprit. If you’re thinking about using a crate to help keep your dog from destroying the house while you’re gone, discuss your intentions with your vet before doing so. A dog with separation anxiety should never be put in a crate. It will only cause him more stress to be confined in a small area.

The more we learn about dogs, the more we understand how intertwined our lives are. Separation anxiety can be dealt with as long as that’s the problem. It’s always a good idea to have your vet give your dog a checkup just to make sure it’s separation anxiety and not something else.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Why Do Pets Steal Our Stuff?


By Linda Cole

Are your pets pack rats? Do you find things that belong to you in odd, out of the way places? Does your cat store things under the bed, or does your dog steal socks and you find the tattered remains scattered around the scene of the crime? Do they like the smell of our dirty laundry? Why do pets steal our stuff?

I have a dog who loves to spend the frosty days of winter under a cozy blanket in bed. Her chosen snuggle item is a slipper. Sometimes, she opts for both which makes it easier to find when I want them. Sure, I could put the slippers where she couldn’t get them, but having them around her makes her feel secure, and she has no desire to chew them. Of course she takes the slipper because it has a comforting and familiar smell on it. Sometimes pets steal our stuff because it makes them feel good to have a piece of clothing with our smell on it next to them when we aren’t there. If the pet stealing your clothing is a dog, it could indicate the dog has a mild case of separation anxiety. Stealing something with a familiar smell on it helps keep them calm by reducing their level of anxiety. Our dirty laundry or a slipper works best because that’s where our smell is the strongest, and a sock or slipper is easier to move than the couch.

Unfortunately, there is a problem with a dog who steals clothes if they also enjoy shredding the clothing and chewing up the slipper. That can get expensive! If your dog likes to eat clothes and your dirty laundry is piled on the floor till laundry day, a simple change in habit and using that empty hamper can help save your clothes from destruction. You may need to hide the hamper from the dog, though. A dog who is chewing on clothes is also likely to ingest a certain amount of fabric and that’s not good for them. A better choice to help your pooch deal with a low level of separation anxiety is to give them a chew toy they can’t destroy while you are gone. A treat toy can provide them with hours of entertainment as they work to get the treat out of the toy. Soft chew toys are also good, but make sure your dog isn’t one who likes to eat them as well.

Cats are like pack rats who love anything shining, small and fun that they can chase around the floor. I’m always retrieving items my cats have stolen from somewhere in the house. Pens, spoons, paper clips, wadded up balls of discarded paper, the ring or cap from a milk jug, an entire roll of toilet paper killed in a mighty battle on my bed. Cats steal our stuff just because they ARE cats. They don’t need a reason. They are constantly looking for something to bat around the floor and as long as it can be moved, it’s fair game as far as the cat is concerned.

Cats are like dogs as far as smells go. They like feeling safe and secure, and our smells are everywhere in the home. Cats will steal pieces of clothing just like dogs, although they don’t usually chew them up and spit the pieces out for us to find later. I have found dirty towels and T-shirts hauled up onto my bed or the couch. Of course, the cat is usually still sleeping in the middle of the pile. I had a cat that once emptied my entire laundry basket and arranged all of the clothes on the bed so he could burrow under them and sleep in peace with the smells he loved around him. I’m sure he was tired after rearranging an entire wardrobe.

In the long run, does it really matter why pets steal our stuff? Most pet owners do feel special if they have a pet who steals stuff. In a way, it’s a tribute to how much they want to be with us. If we aren’t there, then anything with our smell on it will do. If my dog feels comfortable sleeping with one of my slippers, or my cat wants to drag a dirty T-shirt on the bed to sleep on, that’s fine with me. It’s just another way they let us know we belong to them.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Separation Anxiety: Theirs, not Yours


By Ruthie Bently

I just got back from a vacation shortened by weather. But I was pining even the week before I left – I was already missing Skye and she hadn’t gone anywhere yet. You see, she was going to spend her time at the breeders, as I could not take her with me. I was having separation anxiety before the fact. Did you know that animals can also have issues with separation anxiety? Not only that, I discovered after this recent trip, that there can be separation anxiety issues between animal species.

I had a client, “Mrs. Jones,” whose daughter went away to college, and their Golden Retriever began to misbehave. Mrs. Jones came in and asked what she should do because she was baffled. This was a dog that had gone through obedience classes and was a wonderfully behaved dog. So what was going on, why was her superbly trained dog misbehaving? Any time anyone comes in to see me about a specific issue, whatever it is related to, I always ask what has changed in the pet’s environment. We don’t necessarily see changes in our households as major changes, but our pets can and often may. Any changes we make in our lives can affect our pet’s lives as well.

Mrs. Jones mentioned that her daughter had gone off to college, but was home recently for the Thanksgiving break and to do laundry. The dog followed her daughter all around the house and would not stop. If they crated the dog, she whined the whole time. It took me a bit of time to figure it out but I did; the dog loved the whole family, but had apparently bonded to the daughter. Her owner asked me what I thought she should do. “Laundry” was the key word for me. I asked Mrs. Jones if her daughter came home with laundry on a regular basis. “No” was the answer, so I suggested she give the dog a pair of her daughter’s dirty socks and see what happened. That solved the problem, because since the dog had grown up with their daughter and she went away to school, the dog was pining for her. All pets can suffer from separation anxiety, though some may have more issues with it than others.

Some obvious signs of separation anxiety are pets following you around the house or yard and not wanting to let you out of their sight. Our animals are smart enough to know that something is going on; they just don’t have the particulars yet. Your pets may want to go outside and then want to come right back in, because of their fear that you might leave and not let them in again. Sometimes the same pet will stay outside so you can’t leave, because they realize that if they delay your time of leaving that gives them more time to spend with you. (These issues can arise either before or after you actually take your trip.) Your pet may start pacing around the house or yard; they may start whining and crying for no apparent reason.

I explained to Skye before I left why she could not go with me, and told her when I would be back to get her. The last time Skye went to the breeders, one of her cousins was an agitator and would get Skye going. But Skye did fine – I was the basket case!

Some things you can do if you are leaving your dog in a kennel while you are gone are to take a few of their favorite toys or a favorite blanket from home to help them settle in better. Some kennels offer extra exercise for a fee, which can help keep your dog’s mind off your absence. You could also speak with a homeopath about using an herbal remedy for calming your pet while you are away.

I even learned something new after I got home – the cats missed Skye as well. How do I know? They wouldn’t let Skye out of their sight, and followed her around the house whether she was inside or outside. Two of them, Munchkin and Mouse, actually put their front paws around her neck and began kneading her fur, and then they began giving her love bites. Munchkin even spent the first night we were all home together sleeping on Skye’s back with her front paws wrapped around Skye’s neck to prevent her from moving without Munchkin knowing. Skye being the long suffering dog she is, took it all in stride.

The most important thing to remember is that your pets love you and can’t always understand why they can’t go along. Have patience when dealing with their “acting out” and try to be a bit more understanding of their possibly odd behavior after you get home; it will pass in time.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.