Last week my husband and I did another wonderful pet sit while our senior girl (in photo) was in the loving hands of a family we adore through TH. At our new location we had briefly become acquainted with the dogs, chickens and cat before our arrival, in the company of their parents. They were well adjusted and we got the routine down…pretty straightforward, right? Not so fast. Once their humans departed, two of the pups were kinda sulky and didn’t touch their food for a round. The cat made an occasional appearance but would scoot off once we came near. Thankfully, the carried on and provided us with a daily bounty of fresh eggs.
Ironically at the same time, while we were away our girl Ellie was romping on the beach with kids. But even though she may have been tired, the astute parents noticed she also seemed a bit melancholy. It’s no one’s fault - it’s just being aware that changes in routine can disrupt animals’ comfort zones.
Remember the saying ‘creatures of habit’? I think it applies to all species, tho some are much more sensitive to it. Here are some other signs of separation anxiety for dogs, most of which occur in the absence of their parents:
Barking and Howling
A dog who has separation anxiety might bark or howl when left alone or when separated from his guardian. This kind of barking or howling is persistent and doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything except being left alone.
Chewing, Digging and Destruction
Some dogs with separation anxiety chew on objects, door frames or window sills, dig at doors and doorways, or destroy household objects when left alone or separated from their guardians. These behaviors can result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, scraped paws and damaged nails. I like to offer a stuffed KONG to keep them preoccupied. I fill it with a mix of peanut butter and cottage cheese, but you can use either/or. Then I freeze it to make the ‘enjoyment’ last a lot longer.
A dog with separation anxiety might try to escape from an area where he’s confined when he’s left alone or separated from his guardian. The dog might attempt to dig and chew through doors or windows, which could result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped front paws and damaged nails.
Some dogs walk or trot along a specific path in a fixed pattern when left alone or separated from their guardians. Some pacing dogs move around in circular patterns, while others walk back and forth in straight lines. Exercise - both mental and physical - are key to break the pattern.
And as happened with us, skipping meals can also be a sign of stress.
Of course we all know cats have their own set of rules and can be completely indifferent, too
Above all, it’s not you! And communication is key. We didn’t feel the need to alarm the parents because we’ve seen it happen before. We also ask the owners in advance how often they would like updates and what details they’d like us to provide, citing examples like these.
And back to our sit, once we settled in and peacefully showed the pets we were full of love (and food:), they came around to their regular routines and gave us a bundle of joy in return.
What stressors have you seen on sits? What solutions do you bring to experiences like these?