Does your dog get distressed when you leave the house? Do those puppy dog eyes sting you when they see you putting on your shoes? Do they follow you like a shadow? Or perhaps you have caught them howling like a wolf when you walk out the door. Maybe you come home to a tornado scene after you have been gone at work. These can be signs of separation anxiety in dogs.
Separation anxiety in dogs can be stressful for you as an owner and especially for your furry friend. Keep reading to get some quick tips to help you ease this stress.
What is separation anxiety in dogs?
According to the Humane Society of America website, separation anxiety in dogs occurs when a dog becomes distressed and/or exhibits behavioral problems when left alone. If you are a pup parent with a dog that suffers from separation anxiety, you may already know these signs of separation anxiety all too well.
Some symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs include:
- Destructive behavior such as excessive chewing or digging
- Urinating or defecation in the house
- Trying to escape and sometimes injuring themselves
- Excessive whining, barking or howling
- Pacing or repetitive behavior
What causes separation anxiety in dogs?
There is no definitive answer as to why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety while other pups do not. But there are some common triggers that may cause anxiety such as:
- Being away from their owner after being accustomed to being with you at all times
- Coming from a shelter, or being abandoned
- The loss of a key family member
- A major change in routine or a move
- A trauma
Tips for dealing with separation anxiety in dogs
If you have a puppy, you can take some preventative measures to hinder any future separation anxiety in your dog. This is usually in the form of preventative training. Preventative training will get your puppy accustomed to being alone. Start by leaving your pup alone for a short time and gradually increasing the time. Be sure to vary the time so it isn’t always long. You can also make sure to associate time alone with a positive experience. For example, you can give them a special treat or toy when you leave so they associate your departure with a pleasant and special gift, instead of being alone.
If your dog is grown, there are some steps to take to help mitigate the feeling of anxiety. Here are some tips:
- Get your dog out for some exercise
If you can, plan to exercise your pup. Mixing up your walking routine will also keep your dog stimulated. Exercise will not only give your furry friend one-on-one time with you but also help tire them out.
- Try to reduce anxieties before you leave the house
Try not to make a big deal out of leaving. Get ready to go without them hearing or seeing you. This will keep your dog from cueing in on your behaviors that show them you are on your way out. Other cues that your dog will pick up on are seeing you change your clothes or grabbing your keys. Try changing up your routine.
- Leave out toys or treats to help them keep busy while you're gone
Try giving your pup something that can keep them busy for a while like a peanut butter KONG.
- Play relaxing music or turn on the TV
This will help your dog feel a little less lonely and muffle outside noises. There are a lot of channels to choose from on Youtube.
- Leave your scent around
Leaving some clothes or something else with your scent can help reduce anxieties and stress in your pup.
- Don’t greet them in an excitable manner when you get home
I know this one is hard! But greeting your pup in this manner will only validate your dog’s anxiety by “proving” they were right to be upset at your leaving. Greet your dog in a calm relaxed manner as if you have just stepped out for a minute.
- Consider medications
If your dog is really distressed and the above tips do not seem to mitigate symptoms, you may want to consider the use of medications. Talk to your vet if you consider going this route.
- Consider leaving them with a relative
If your dog is struggling and these tips do not seem to help, consider having a relative dog sit for you. This will especially help if your dog is having trouble adjusting to being alone.
If you come home to a destroyed house, or a soiled floor, try not to react in a scolding or harsh way. This reaction can cause further anxiety in your dog. Remember that the main reason he or she may be exhibiting this behavior is because they are anxious.
If you want some great step-by-step training advice, VCA Hospital has great actionable instructions on how to deal with separation anxiety in dogs.
Knowing the signs of separation anxiety in dogs can help you get your dog the help they need to alleviate their anxiety. If you’re concerned that your dog has separation anxiety, reach out to your dog’s veterinarian. For more great tips and articles on dogs, check more New Life K9s blog posts.
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