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For some pet owners the time has come…  Heading back to work and school means that your pet will be alone for more hours than they have been used.

There is no doubt this is hard on our pets, particularly for our two-year-old fur-bubs.  For these younger pets it is normal to have their human family around during the day.  Born during COVID when working from home, home-schooling and isolation is their usual way of life, these younger pets will need to learn how to be alone without feeling anxious or insecure.  For older pets it means remembering how to feel secure when alone knowing their owners will return at the end of their day.

Training Tips Early for a Successful Return to Work

Establish a routine

Pets thrive on routine.  Knowing when their food, exercise, play, cuddle and toileting times are goes a long way to reducing anxiety levels throughout the day.  Make sure to establish a routine early on and if you have not already done so, start now.  Once you start your work/school routines, they will learn that being on their own is now part of their daily routine too.  

Get your pet used to “alone time”

Read up on our tips for making Alone Time satisfying and secure.

Uneventful Goodbyes

Make your coming and going from home as low key and emotionally neutral as possible.   This will reinforce the feeling there is nothing to be anxious about.  Treat them as you are leaving home, not when you arrive back.

Stagger your Days

If at all possible, speak to your family members or employers and see if you can stagger your return-to-work days for the first few weeks.  Alternatively, try to mix working from home with going to work while your pet understands and feels comfortable with this new routine.

Make some noise

Background noises such as music or audiobooks can be used to reduce barking habits by providing a “white-noise” effect to drown out environmental or neighbourhood sounds.

Positive Reinforcement Training

Destructive or unacceptable behaviours are often a sign of anxiety and should never be punished but rather ignored.  Punishing these behaviours will result in greater anxiety and therefore increased occurrence of these “bad” behaviours.  Instead, always work with positive reinforcement of good and acceptable behaviours.  See a trainer to get you started on how to best implement these tactics.

Anti-anxiety medication

If you feel your pet is not coping and you have tried the above tips to reduce their separation anxiety, speak to us at The Pymble Vet about using medication to help reduce stress in your pet. There are natural alternatives to anxiety medication that may be added to your care plan. 

Symptoms of Separation Anxiety

Try some of the tips mentioned above or give The Pymble Vet team a call on 9499 4010 if your pet is still struggling with some of these symptoms of anxiety.  

Cats:  

  • Excessive (more than normal) sleeping.  
  • Excessive (more than normal) hiding themselves away.
  • Toileting issues – not using their usual, designated areas or toileting outside their litter tray.
  • Appetite changes.
  • Scratching in unwanted areas.
  • Abnormal spraying.

Dogs:

  • Inappropriate toileting e.g. inside the house or in unusual places.
  • Excessive (more than normal) barking or howling when you leave or are out of the home.
  • Whining or crying when you leave the home.
  • Panting.
  • Pacing.
  • Shivering.
  • Jumping up excessively (more than normal) when you leave or return.  This heightened hyperactivity may be a symptom of the anxiety felt while you were away.
  • Excessive destructive behaviour, often directed at doors or windows.  This behaviour is different from boredom which may be a less intense form of destruction.
  • Shadowing you when you are home and sitting on your lap/feet wherever you go.

An anxious animal may quickly become an unwell animal so seek advice from The Pymble Vet early to avoid unnecessary health problems for your pets.

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