by Mariana Burgos
Does your pet go crazy whenever you leave the house? Do your pets destroy stuff or poop and urinate everywhere even if they are potty trained when you go out? I experienced this with our pets. Dogs and cats alike. Even our guinea pig did unusual things when we were away once.
Professional pet trainers call this “separation anxiety.”
I have had a lot of experiences with this. I had no idea why our pets did what they did even if we left them with enough food and water, and did not put them in kennels or cages. I would usually scold them every time we returned. My main problem was they would poop and urinate in places they should not. The mind-boggling thing is they know exactly where they should do their business when we are all together.
It is only when we are away that they do this. There was a time we stayed in Quezon City for almost a week and our dog Milky was left in the province. When we returned, we found out Milky had almost completely destroyed our sofa bed.
Another time, we went to Bicol for a vacation. Milky stayed at the home for rescues of Save Animals of Love and Light (Save ALL Inc.) but our cat Whisky was left alone in our apartment. When we got back, we found out that she had destroyed all the plastic bags and other storage containers in our kitchen.
I did not understand then how it really was for them to be alone in the house and how to deal with it properly. It was only last year that I began to learn more about separation anxiety in pets. When we had our wifi installed, I googled about it to understand our pets more.
Last year, good friends were infected with covid. Tita Aileen and Edsil Bacalso and their son Bryan are human rights defenders and animal lovers just like us. They have five dogs and three cats. Their pets are all potty trained and they know their boundaries around the house. They did not really have any problems with their pets until they got infected with the virus. She and her husband were taken to the hospital due to their severe symptoms. Only Bryan was left in the house because he had very mild symptoms and he was responding to the medication better than his parents. Tita Aileen and Tito Edsil were confined for more than two weeks. While they were away, Bryan said their pets seemed to have freaked out. He said the dogs pooped and urinated all over the house. They also destroyed the sofa.
Sounds very familiar to me.
Yes, what happened with Tita Aileen’s pets is a clear example of “separation anxiety.” While in the hospital, their dogs felt something was “not right” or different with their daily routine because the alphas, their humans, were not around. For pets, that is a big deal, specially for dogs because dogs are “pack-oriented” animals, according to Ceasar Millan (my favorite dog whisperer). He said this means that for dogs, it is their nature to need to feel they belong to a group or a pack. They would look up to a leader or an alpha. That is why they tend to always follow who they see is above them in social standing.
This is also how dogs earned the title “man’s best friend.” They will always be by your side no matter what and they see their human owner as their alpha. When something happens to their alpha that they are not used to, like being gone for a long time, they get confused and they try to relay messages of confusion by doing things in unusual ways.
Ceasar has been posting a lot of videos in Youtube about ways to help pet owners overcome this separation anxiety in their pets. One of my favorite videos about this is this: Cesar Explains How To Fix Separation Anxiety With Your Dog.
Cesar Explains How To Fix Separation Anxiety With Your Dog
He explained that it is the human who he is training so the owner will be able to train their pet properly. He also pointed out that our usual and major mistake is we assume our pets understand things and situations the same way we do. We should not assume this because we are still different from them. Although we call ourselves their furparents, that does not mean they would naturally act and react just like human babies for us. We may have developed a special bond with each of our pets but that does not mean they fully understand our human life, and vice versa.
What is natural for us is not always natural for our pets. Ceasar noted that for humans, it is natural for us to be away from our families so we can do what we want to do to have a better life. But this quarantine period is not natural for us because we are forced to stay in our homes and be locked down with our families. But for dogs, Ceasar stressed that being quarantined or being locked down with their families is the most natural thing for them. This helped me understand our pets more.
About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She is a solo parent for 14 years now because she is wife to a desaparacido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.
This article also appears in the Manila Standard
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