Archive for April 2005

Does Your Pet Exhibit Behavioral Problems?

Does your pet exhibit behavioral problems when you are away from home? Chewing your shoes, wetting on the carpet, dirtying on the bed, pacing, barking or crying all day?

Pets are not vindictive. The cat and dog are not sitting around the table plotting the destruction of your home. Puppies have a ton of energy to burn and how else to do so but to race around the house with one end of the wallpaper in their mouth or strategically pulling all the stuffing out of your chesterfield. Meanwhile the cat is scratching the doorframes and your Macaw has managed to peel the paint from your kitchen wall. Wahoo!

The trouble lies within the language barrier. You do not speak the same language as your pets. What they would like you to know is that they are lonely. They miss you when you are gone and are bored stiff. Dogs for example, have all the same emotions as humans. Did you know that a dog’s biggest fear is abandonment? This means every time you leave for work your dog is convinced you may never return. That can be pretty stressful over an 8 to 12 hour day not to mention those four walls do not provide much entertainment, affection or exercise. It is not easy to cross those canine legs for this long to spare you of a mess either. This of course, can add to the anxiety your dog may already feel while you are away from home.

Let’s take a look at one of the most common problems you may face with your critters while you are at work for the day or away for an extended period such as vacation.

Separation Anxiety. Many social species, including dogs, exhibit distress responses when separated from their human family members. Companion dogs with separation anxiety typically eliminate, vocalize, or engage in destructive behavior when left alone. The ability to differentiate separation anxiety from other behavior problems with the same presenting complaint is essential before embarking on a treatment plan.

The behavior of the dog before, during, and after separation must be determined. Comparison of the unique behavioral profiles of each of the possible differentials will lead to an accurate diagnosis. Document behavior, times, diet, sleep patterns, moods and examine excrement. If the behavioral problem persists you will have this information to take with you to your veterinarian or behaviorist to present a clearer picture. Have your pet sitter or dog walker help with this documentation. Don’t dismiss your pet’s poor behavior as medical conditions can often lead to behavioral problems.

Many dog owners crate their canine. Although this can be a useful practice confining a dog with separation anxiety to a crate or other small area can be disastrous. Such confinement only prevents opportunities for destructive or house soiling behavior but does not lessen the dog’s anxiety. Consequently, most dogs try to get out of the crate and may break teeth or cut their faces, legs or paws trying to escape. The more anxious dog can even suffer heart failure.

Tip: Dogs are generally at their most destructive within 10 minutes after you leave the house. Try waiting just outside the door and listen for the unwanted behavior. Be sure to catch the dog in the act, show the dog the object of destruction and tell him no. Offer your dog something else to work on such as a “Kong” or other fun chew toy stuffed with some peanut butter. Even freeze it to add to the challenge and fun. Don’t make a big deal out of leaving. If it is not a big deal for you it is less likely to be for the dog.

It is not helpful to punish or scold the dog for the misbehavior upon arriving home. The dog has no idea what she is being punished for, even if you show her, and can begin to anticipate the owner’s arrival with more anxiety and therefore more misbehavior. The way to dissolve such problems is to decrease the dog’s anxiety about being left alone.

Help your pets to adjust to your absence by providing lots of safe and entertaining toys to play with. Try turning on a radio so they have some “company”. Hire a Professional Pet Sitter to visit with them partway through the day. A Pet Sitter can provide some companionship, affection and exercise. Perhaps the dog could use a walk, the puppy a “mid-day break” the cat needs medication at lunchtime. This visit could help your pet to feel less lonely, less stressed and therefore less destructive. You can finally come home to enjoy your pets rather than fearing what they’ve been up to.

Planning a trip? Pets are happiest when in they remain in their own homes, in familiar surroundings. They like routine and predictability. Cats are not as independent as we once thought either. They get lonely and often exhibit anxiety or depression while their family is away. Dirtying outside the litter box, not eating, scratching upholstery or curling up on your bed for days. Small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and birds are also in need of affection and play. Besides anything can happen while you are away. Your pet could run out of water due to a leak or spill, could get caught in something, get hurt or sick. They are left feeling insecure.

Of course we would like to be able to take our beloved pets everywhere we go but it is not always possible nor a good idea. Make professional pet sitting part of your vacation budget. Your pet will thank you. Some Professional Pet Sitters even offer overnight pet sitting in your home. Now your pets can remain in their own environment and you can vacation with peace of mind in knowing that both your pet and your home are in good care.

When choosing a Pet Sitter be sure to ask to see a copy of pet care related certifications, references and current Insurance and Bonding for your protection. Ensure they have backup in place to care for your home and pets in an emergency. Above all you and your pets must be completely comfortable with your choice in professional pet care.