With the new year in swing I want to discus a topic I’ve struggled with since first becoming a dog parent almost five years ago. Separation anxiety from my dog Jack is something I have been tackling over the years and I know I’m not the only pet parent with struggles with this.
Every year, I make significant progress in learning to let go and not be by my dogs side every waking minute possible. I know it’s not good for myself or the dog to always be available and I need to learn to not use up all my free leisure time, constantly with the dog . By blogging about this subject, I hope together we can better understand and share new ways to help each other deal with the issue. But in all honesty, what’s not to miss about your dog!
I’ve heard about dogs who suffer from extreme separation anxiety from their owners, but in this case I’m certain it’s the other way around. This is mostly because the times I leave my dog home alone, I worry and wonder if he is sad at home, scared with no idea when or if I’m ever coming home. I know it sounds dramatic but I love my dog so much this my reality. So to describe my separation situation in further detail, let me share a story of a time I had to spend the evening away from my dog Jack, which is normally the typical style of scenario that flares up my anxiety.
Last minute, my friends and I decide to rally to go see a Puff Daddy for the night out of town in LA. I was looking forward to it because beside him being one of my favorite artists I knew I needed a night away ( hey every mom needs a break). But with all the excitement there was still a looming sense of worry.. worrying about my dog Jack.
Who could watch him while I was gone for the evening? Who would entertain him? How many hours will he be alone and how will he handle the loneliness? My brother who at the time was my roommate, unfortunately already had plans for the evening so it was certain Jack would be alone all night. I eagerly began skimming through my phone for a dog sitter. While a dog sitter could really make a difference, there have been many times when dog sitters have sent me text messages saying Jack spends a lot of his time looking out the window wondering when you will come home. IT. BREAKS. MY. HEART. to know he let’s himself get that down when I’m gone. This is not for every case he has a sitter, but most. Which meant if I was my goal to get him a sitter who he was familiar with and enjoyed being around, I would have booked the sitter in advance.
Unfortunately for the the night of the show, none of Jacks favorite sitters were available. And the only realistic option was for my next door neighbor to come by and check on him. Jack has always liked her so the plan would be she that she come by to take him for a walk and play with him for a hour at one point in the evening. Even though I knew I was going to have someone to come keep him company at one point while I was away the idea of my absence from him still made me sad. Knowing that I wasn’t going to be spending the night with Jack and his favorite sitters were not available made me worry about how bored and likely sad he would be while I was gone. I don’t like being away from him for too many hours at a time, especially at night. So when it comes to spending the entire evening away from him plans have to be made to implement ways of distraction for Jack and to diffuse the anxiety for me. I have trouble sleeping when I’m away from him at night… he’s all I think about. Many times I have trouble letting myself fully enjoy an evening out because all I can think about is him being at home missing me.
I’m envious of dog parents who can just leave Fido home without anxiety. How do they do it? Or is it just a front! Parents who have two dogs have it much easier because they can leave the house with a piece of mind knowing their dogs keep each other company. Parents like myself who only parent one dog are always looking for new ways to distract their dogs while away. I have tried everything! From long lasting raw hides and durable toys. I have also gone as far as ordering DOGTV, a network scientifically made for dogs to entertain them while mom and dad are away. But no matter how many raw hides, toys, or television entertainment I personally provide for my dog Jack, my anxiety will never fully subside. Do any of you struggle with this with your dogs?
The day of my night out I took Jack to the dog park, the beach, went to the dog wash and did some chew toy shopping. I bought him all kinds of long lasting raw hides I was hoping would distract him while I was gone. I mentally began to prepare myself how incredibly hard it was going to be for me to be away from him but I also had to remind myself that I was going to have a great time and gosh darn I deserved it!
The night ended up being a huge was a success. I really did have the time of life. However throughout the evening I found myself anxiously making two countdowns; the first one with my friends until Puff Daddy hit the stage, and the second one in my head as I subtly counted down the hours until I was reunited with Jack once again the next morning.
The next morning, before any of my other friends woke up, I left the hotel we stayed bright and early at 7 am on a Saturday. Who leaves a 5 star hotel that early and doesn’t take advantage of the complimentary buffet breakfast? This girl who’s missing her dog back hoe. I was not interested in sleeping in and enjoying a hotel amenities, I just wanted to get home to my dog. So I grabbed by luggage and hit the road back home. I could not wait to see Jack. When I finally made it home, I was so happy to see Jack. One thing I noticed that made me kind of sad was that he barley touched his raw hyde which got me wondering if he was too depressed that I was gone to chew on it. Jack can be an emotional eater sometimes. I don’t know what really goes on in his head when I’m gone, but I know I don’t like to be away from him. The reason why I worry is because I understand the reality that I am Jack’s entire world. At the end of the day as pet owners, we have our friends, our entertainment, our lives, but our pets — all they have is us. So I always make an effort to be extra considerate of that as a parent to him.
It’s not unusual in today’s society to see people spotted out with their dogs in more untraditional settings. Anyone who know’s me knows that I take Jack with me everywhere, and I mean everywhere! If for any reason I have an afternoon engagement that does not allow me to bring him along he goes to Kamp Kanine a outdoor dog daycare in Encinitas for a couple hours, before myself or his nanny (dog sitter) picks him and takes him home.
But during the evenings, I truthfully don’t like being away from Jack especially for long hours, especially over-night. And vacations, well those have to her planned months in advanced so I can get my dog care affairs in order.
However with every new year I have made more progress on handling this issue. I have also invested in more dog sitters to come by and spend time with Jack so I can have some “me time” as well. If you have separation anxiety from your dog I encourage you hire a sitter to take the dog a few times a week because it’s healthy for you and the dog to spend some time apart, but this way you won’t worry the dog is alone. With the new dog sitter apps available like Rover and Wags, you can have a loving and compassionate dog sitter on your doorstep in a moments notice! Try it, you’ll love it.
What are ways you cope with treating your separation anxiety from your dog? How do you tackle the nervousness? Would love to hear your stories and suggestions!