Some dogs and cats tend to cause havoc at home when we leave them home alone. Boredom and the anxiety caused by loneliness as well as an excess of energy are the main causes of such destructive behavior, which could lead to aggressiveness. So let us explore some solutions and examples that could shed light on how we can help our pets overcome boredom and solitude.
Rocky´s first year was boring and sad. His owners didn’t pay much attention to the bull terrier puppy and often left him tied in the yard. So it was not surprising that when Carla and Sam adopted him, the animal was desperate for some company and a little tender loving care. He soon grew fond of his new family, but the poor Rocky felt scared and annoyed when he was left home alone.
When Carla left the house every morning, Rocky ran in circles and sometimes showed aggressiveness towards her. And when she admonished him or tried to put on his leash, Rocky refused and even tried to bite her hand. Carla could only leave the house with Sam´s help. But he also had to pay a price. Rocky furiously scratched the door to the point Sam had to protect it with a hard acrylic plate. The situation had almost gotten out of hand.
When my friends went to the vet for help, they were not surprised by the diagnosis. It was clear that the animal suffered from uncontrollable energy and separation anxiety. This is what Rocky‘s vet recommended to them, as well as some advice from friends, neighbors and an expensive expert coach.
STEP ONE. Vigorous daily exercise.
When Rocky was taken to his new home, he was walked around the neighborhood for ten minutes every day. Carla and Sam changed the routine and made him run at least an hour every day.
STEP TWO. Fun and games.
Rocky needed an activity to make him forget that he was alone. The miracle came in the form of a rubber toy, the famous Kong, with an interior cavity that Carla and Sam replenished with food or dog treats. This toy is, for animals, what video games are for teens: it fascinates them. Carla was supposed to give him the toy as she was leaving the house. But keep in mind that if you put too much food or treats inside the toy, you should reduce some of his regular meals to prevent your pet from gaining weight. And to add fun to exercise, you can also hide the toy in or outside the house for your dog to experience the thrill of a searching adventure.
Bored, or anxious pets often cause damage inside their homes, barking incessantly or, like Rocky, becoming restless and aggressive. The idea that animals need an environment with challenges and excitement is not new. Research shows that it is necessary to stimulate the psychological well-being of the animal. That’s why zoos have polyethylene balls for big cats to play with or logs filled with raisins, honey, and nuts for the bears.
These surprises are essential to the health and happiness of animals. Pets have ample opportunities to eat and sleep, but if they live inside a house, they cannot always play, hunt or explore. If the owners have to work, the situation worsens.
The same technique, a captivating toy and lots of exercise also works for cats. Delirio, a beautiful 18-pound cat with plenty of energy, used to bite his owners to get their attention. A feline version of Kong improved the lives of the entire family. ■