Understanding separation anxiety

Like any other behavioural issues, separation anxiety issue starts developing in pets due to ignorance or negligence by pet parents in the puppy’s earlier days. Sometimes, pets who have a nervous temperament or are less confident, can develop this behaviour as well. Also, it can be seen in adult adopted pets, as they may have never been left alone in their previous home.
Signs

Excessive barking, crying, howling, etc. while left alone.

Damaging furniture, excessive chewing, destructive behaviour.

Signs of stress such as excessive panting, salivating, licking self vigorously, chasing tail repeatedly.

Super hyper behaviour once the family is back.

Reasons

It happens if pups have never been taught to be alone from early days.

Over pampering by pet parents such as letting the pup follow them everywhere, all the time in the house – even in the bathroom.

Unknowingly encouraging or rewarding pets with attention when they show early signs of distress.

Letting pets get overattached to one family member.

Fussing over them once you return home after work or long absence.

Failure to miss early signs of anxiety by pet parents and worrying about the problem only when the pet causes serious damage in the house.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to train your pet to be comfortable when left alone.

Start early. Get your pup used to being alone for small intervals of time (15-20 minutes) once a day, right from the month they come home.

Schedule time alone: Plan your pup’s schedule in such a way that you can leave him/her alone when s/he is mostly sleepy or tired (after his walk).

Sensitise him: You can start by leaving the pup alone in one particular room while you are still in the house, so the puppy can still hear you but can’t see you.

Pup-proof the space: During ‘being alone’ time, keep him in a secure part of the house where there is less furniture, things to damage, etc.

No fuss: Ignore the pup’s tantrums such as barking, crying, whining, scratching doors, howling, no matter what.

No special attention: Do not fuss once the ‘being alone’ time is over. Instead let your pet be in the same room, among family members but without giving any special attention.

Make it part of life: Do not make ‘being alone’ time a punishment; treat it just as a part of the pup’s daily routine.

Keep him occupied: Give the puppy chew toys/bones, stuffed Kong toy or any other boredom blaster toys to keep him/her occupied while left alone. It’s fine if he refuses to play with them and continues to bark initially. He will learn to get used to them over a few practice sessions

Never too late: Teaching an adult/adopted pet to be alone can be difficult considering the unknown history but it’s never too late to start. Maintaining the adult pet’s routine i.e., regular walks, daily play time and then making ‘being alone’ time as a part of his routine will surely help.

Have patience: Everything needs patience and practice. So continue these small sessions till the pup is comfortable, and then gradually increase duration. This may take few days/weeks/months depending on the pup’s temperament.

Be responsible: Sometimes, pet parents are more anxious about leaving the pup alone rather than the pup. As a pet parent, it’s your responsibility to teach good manners and not expect miracles without putting in any effort.

- Pooja Sathe Gawande


Are you a proud pet parent? Have a cute cat story to share? Maybe your guinea pig is giving you trouble? Whatever is your creature companion, we are here to listen to you. Send your photos, queries and stories to [email protected]

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