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Are You Leaving Your Pet Alone?

Many of us can't stay home with our pets all day long, but that doesn't mean you can't have a happy dog or cat. As with children, quality can help make up for lack of quantity, according to animal behaviorist and CALLING ALL PETS host Patricia "Trisha" McConnell. "What's really important is what happens before you leave the house and after you get home," says McConnell. In her case, McConnell's dogs get a lot of attention and exercise before she leaves for work in the morning and again when she gets home in the evening. According to McConnell. As for spending time alone, animals need more sleep than humans anyway- up to 12 hours for dogs and cats, McConnell says. They have natural energy cycles with high energy from early to mid-morning and again from mid-afternoon to late evening. So it is possible that these industrial-strength nappers may not miss us as much as we think they do? Just remember, lest you feel guilty about leaving them- you're going to work, while they're going to nap on the couch.

One of the concerns people most often mention about their pets- especially dogs- is something the experts call "separation anxiety". That's a big term that means your dog found creative ways to let you know she didn't like the fact that you left her. She could chew up something that is not her toy, or she might bark until the neighbors call the police. In extreme cases, she may soil your bed or favorite chair. None of these behaviors typically inspires us to be patient, loving and gentle. However, your furry family member is frightened and totally distressed if she is having these behaviors. She would never disappoint you on purpose.

For simple cases of separation anxiety, you may try these remedies:

  • Take your dog out for a long walk, a run or a few minutes of playtime in the morning and evening. This will leave her feeling more content and relaxed.
  • Your pet knows the departure clues when you put on your shoes, turn off the TV, and grab your keys and briefcase on your way out. Try unconditioning your pet to know when you are leaving by changing your predictable patterns.
  • When it is time to leave, just leave quietly. No hugs and kisses, or regretful "Good Byes". These clues might make your pet feel more anxious. Ignore your pet for about 15 minutes before you leave.
  • Prepare a special treat to stuff into a rubber snack toy you can buy at a pet store. Fill it with treats or anything she really likes. Give her the special "Good Bye" stuffed toy when you leave and then be sure to pick up and put the treats away when you get home. Food-motivated pets will focus on the special treat items and not on your departure. You can even freeze rubber snack toys to make them last longer.
  • Create a safe, secure room or space for your dog while you are away. Include their bedding and favorite toys, and provide some normal household sounds by playing a radio or tape of voices and music. Use this room to practice departures and quick returns, with rewards for appropriate behavior, to help condition them to stay calm. Do not begin crate training while a dog is still insecure
  • Sometimes a second furry family member can provide both pets with the security and companionship of a good buddy during the day. Be sure to involve your current pet in the selection process for a good match.
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