Build Your Dog’s Confidence
If your dog is fearful and anxious when left alone, it could be an issue with their confidence. Just like humans, the more we reward our dogs and boost their confidence the happier they will be to do things on their own.
You can help your dog to be less anxious about being left alone by engaging in some basic training to help increase their self-confidence. This could be teaching them fun new tricks or just practicing behaviours they already know such as sit, down and paw. Try to also reward any independent behaviour from your dog, rewarding them with gentle praise if they choose to settle themselves down somewhere away from you.
How Can I Help My Dog With Anxiety
In an ideal world, the first option would be to remove the source of anxiety, but thats not always possible. For instance, if your dog has a fear of men in hats, it might see someone on a walk, and its stress level may spike. While the underlying feeling may be the same, every type of anxiety has its own recommended treatment, Dr. Freyer says. If you think your dog has signs of anxiety, you should discuss this with your veterinarian. Dog anxiety is typically addressed with a combination of calming products, behavior modification, natural supplements, or medication.
Signs Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Returning to a dog who’s really happy to see you doesn’t mean that he or she hasn’t been suffering silently while you’ve been out. You may know the obvious signs of separation anxiety in dogs, such as destroying furniture or barking, but did you know that there are other signs that you may be missing?
The most common signs of separation anxiety in dogs are:
- Destructive behaviour – often targeted at the door you left the house from, as well as chewing and destroying furniture
- Noise – such as howling and barking
- Toileting – weeing or pooing in the house
Other less frequent signs include:
- Trembling, whining or pacing
- Repetitive behaviour
Taking the time to check for these signs by filming your dog when they’re home alone will help you spot potential issues, even if you don’t believe there are any.
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Comfort Place And Attention
Your dog needs to have a place to go when you leave where she feels safe and secure. Start teaching her a go to your bed command and praise and reward her when she does. Give her lots of attention and love when she is lying in her bed. In fact, you should make this the only place where she gets this kind of attention . She will soon find it very reassuring to be in her bed.
Resist giving your dog attention whenever she demands it. Ignore her when she comes to you and nudges your hand to be petted. Give her attention on your terms, not hers.
Keep Comings And Goings Uneventful
Many owners lavish their dogs with affection and attention right before you leave home and immediately when you walk in the door. Unfortunately, this can contribute to your dog’s anxiety. To prevent this, the best thing you can do is to ignore your dog before you leave and for several minutes after your return. This is your way of demonstrating to your dog that your comings and goings are really no big deal.
Teach your dog that calm and patient behavior is rewarded. This means attention comes when they are settled and relaxed. If a dog engages in quiet behavior on its own it should be rewarded with attention or a treat.
For mild to moderate cases of separation anxiety, these small changes may be enough to reduce your dog’s anxiety. In more severe cases, you will need to do some extra work.
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Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety might learn their persons predeparture cueslike putting on a certain uniform, making lunch or organizing a briefcaseand begin to exhibit stress responses before their person even leaves.
Once the dog is alone, they might exhibit any or all of the following hallmarks of separation anxiety:
Pacing: Dogs that are panicked by their persons departure might be unable to settle down and might resort to walking back and forth repeatedly.
Vocalization: Barking and howling are common canine responses to isolation, but dogs with separation anxiety might continue vocalizing the entire time theyre alone.
Loss of appetite: Separation anxiety can cause even the most food-motivated dog to ignore treats and bones.
Destruction: Many dogs suffering from separation anxiety destroy small household itemslike the remote control or pillowsor resort to large-scale destruction, like tearing through furniture, walls, doors or windows.
Elimination: Dogs that are house-trained might have accidents while alone, including diarrhea.
Drooling: Some stressed dogs drool excessively and wind up with a soaked chin and chest.
Escape: Dogs with severe separation anxiety might be able to escape confinement, which can result in injuries.
My Dog Starts To Get Anxious Even Before I Leave What Can I Do
There are a number of activities that we do consistently prior to each departure. The dog soon learns to identify that these cues or signals mean imminent departure. On the other hand, some dogs learn that other signals indicate that you are not planning to depart and therefore can help the dog to relax. If you can prevent your dog from observing any of these anxiety inducing pre-departure cues, or if you can train your dog that these cues are no longer predictive of departure, then the anxiety is greatly reduced. Even with the best of efforts, some dogs will still pick up on “cues” that the owner is about to depart. Train your dog to associate these cues with enjoyable, relaxing situations rather than the anxiety of impending departure. By exposing your dog to these cues while you remain at home and your dog is relaxed or otherwise occupied, they should no longer predict departure. This entails some retraining while you are home. Get the items that normally signal your departure, and walk to the door. However, do not exit the house. The dog will be watching and possibly get up, but once you put everything away, your dog should lie down. Then, once your dog is calm, this is repeated. Only 3 to 4 repetitions should be done in a day and the dog must be calm and quiet before presenting the cues again. Eventually, your dog will not attend to these cues because they are no longer predictive of you leaving. Then, your dog will be less anxious when you do leave.
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No Touch No Talk No Eye Contact
Dont make a big deal when you leave for the day or when you return. This way, you are communicating to your dog that the time apart is no big deal. Its just business as usual! Depending on the severity of the dog anxiety, you may need to practice the rule for five minutes or up to an hour before you leave and when you get back.
If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety Its Best To Ignore Him While Youre At Home
This one was probably an extrapolation of the traditional advice to ignore your dog for 10 minutes before leaving the house, and for 10 minutes after returning. The logic goes that the less difference in emotional peaks and valleys between when youre at home and when youre gone, the easier it will be for the dog. But I didnt get a dog to ignore him, and I bet you didnt either. Besides, imagine that your significant other suddenly began to ignore you. Wouldnt you wonder what youd done wrong? Would you not become anxious and stressed even if you werent to begin with? Dogs are masters of observation and believe me, if you suddenly start to ignore your dog, chances are youll cause more anxiety, not less. It is true that you shouldnt make a huge fuss over your comings and goings, but keeping things on an even keel emotionally is the key.
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Constantly Scratching Of Doors Or Walls On Owners Absence
Most dogs experience tension and anguish when they are separated from their owners, which can lead to clawing at doors and walls.
Youll notice your dog clawing the exit door as you leave for work if he has separation anxiety.
You may also see your dog clawing at the walls, which is a clear indicator of nervousness caused by being alone.
If you come home to find scratches on your walls or doors, your dogs separation anxiety is causing aggravation.
What Not To Do If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Do NOT punish or scold your dog. This anxious behavior is because they are distressed, not done out of spite or disobedience. Your dog is scared or upset and their separation anxiety is how they are trying to cope with the situation. By punishing your dog you will only make them more upset and the problem will get even worse. Finding positive ways to redirect this behavior will result in everyone being happier in the end.
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Developing A Management Plan
In addition to the high level of stress it creates in affected dogs, separation anxiety can have a significant impact on the owners life. Owners may opt to often stay at home7 days a weekto avoid unwanted behavior. The fallout from separation anxiety, such as destuctiveness, may lead to relinquishment or euthanasia. Treatment, therefore, should be aggressive but planned with caution to prevent any increase in the dogs anxiety.
Submissive Or Excitement Urination
It is not uncommon for dogs to urinate during greetings, physical contact, play, when being scolded, or when putting on a leash. Dogs will typically show physical signs of submissive posture in interactions. This includes displaying their stomach, holding their tail low, flattening their ears against their head, crouching, and shaking.
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Dogs And Separation Anxiety
Owning a dog is an adventure, but you can reduce your anxiety with careful planning. The trick is developing a strong human-dog relationship. With the right training, your pet will not destroy your home, but your relationship may have a downside if you are not careful.
No matter how much you like your home and dog, there will be times when you must leave for an extended period. During these moments, some dogs will come anxious about you leaving them alone. This separation anxiety may cause your pet to act out when alone, chew on your furniture, soil around the house, or consciously bark at the door.
Dog separation anxiety is easy to understand. It is the same anxious reaction we humans can get. The anxiety comes from your pets fear of being abandoned, which is amplified by a dogs lack of a time sense. To your pet, a minute away from you is the same as being separated for decades.
All dogs will suffer anxiety at some point with some breeds more susceptible than others. Still, it only becomes a grave issue when it comes to pathological. Severe separation anxiety can impact your pets physical health or strain the bond you have with him or her.
Some common separation anxiety triggers include:
- Death of a family member, divorce, or other drastic change in the family
- Lifestyle or scenery changes
- Changes in your pets daily routine
Therefore, if your work or lifestyle requires leaving your pet alone for hours, you must get a breed who can live without constant attention.
What Is The Difference Between Separation Anxiety And Normal Canine Behavior
Before labeling destroyed cushions or potty accidents as SA, be sure its not a case of inadequate training. Does your dog truly understand good manners, even when youre not watching him? Is he 100% potty trained? One of the best ways to see whats really going on in your absence is to audio or videotape your dogs behavior while youre away.
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A Dog With Separation Anxiety Should Never Be Left In A Crate When Alone
This one is another partial myth. There are dogs who, if left crated, will frantically try to escape, and may injure themselves in the process. Others will chew themselves to the point of self-mutilation. Clearly, for those dogs, crating is not a good option. But for a dog who is comfortable in her crate, who sleeps in it at night, and doesnt mind being contained there for brief periods during the day, the crate might just be a saving grace. Many dogs will settle down more quickly when crated, particularly if the crate lends a feeling of being safely enclosed. For that reason among others, I prefer the plastic snap-together type crates to the wire ones.
Develop An Appropriate Exercise Routine
Despite behavior training, some dogs need ample exercise to remain normal. A good exercise routine can even reduce their separation anxiety. The workout may drain your pets body and brain, making him or her settle down to wait for your return.
If you cannot establish a daily exercise routine, you can replace one with some challenging but stimulating games. Especially useful for dogs with only a mild case of separation anxiety, the games can take the form of finding treats, hidden objects, or a dedicated puzzle toy.
Depending on your pet, you may even use easy trick training. Dogs love doing spins and high fives, and these games leave them ready to rest.
Finally, you can leave a few interactive toys. While you never want to leave food toys for dogs with full anxiety, they can be great stress relievers for dogs.
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Why Does My Dog Have Separation Anxiety Is It My Fault
We can often identify the cause of a dogs isolation distress or separation anxiety.
I can tell you definitively, as a specialist in helping dogs to overcome a fear of being alone, it is almost never the fault of a loving family. Some of the most common factors include:
- Being returned to a shelter after an initial adoption
- Changes in the familys makeup such as a death, a birth, or a child going off to college
- Major changes in a familys routine like returning to work after a period of unemployment or after a summer break
- Puppyhood trauma such as malnutrition or being shipped across the country
We know there is also a genetic component for some dogs that struggle to be alone.
Some dogs, due to breeding or other genetic factors, are simply predisposed to isolation distress. We love dogs, after all, for their desire to be our constant companions its not their fault that we live in a world that doesnt allow us to keep them at our sides at all times!
Potential Causes Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
While there is no conclusive evidence showing exactly why dogs develop separation anxiety, there are a few potential causes. For example, dogs who were adopted from an animal shelter are more likely to have more behavioral issues than a dog that was raised with the same family from when they were a puppy.
There are certain situations that are commonly associated with separation anxiety in dogs, including:
There is no single cause of separation anxiety in dogs and is often rather a combination of various outside forces. In addition the above-mentioned causes, boredom, loneliness, and old age can also contribute to separation anxiety. Regardless of what the exact cause of your dogs separation may be, its more important to figure out how to treat them so they can live a happier and healthier life.
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If The Problem Is Mild
- Give your dog a special treat each time you leave . Only give them this treat when you’re gone, and take it away when you get home.
- Make your comings and goings low-key without a lot of greeting. Ignore your pup for the first few minutes after you get home.
- Leave some recently worn clothes out that smell like you.
- Consider giving your pet over-the-counter natural calming supplements.
When To See A Veterinarian
Fleas generally arenât a medical emergency. In many cases, you should be able to get rid of them without seeing your vet, although the best way to handle them is with a prescription flea medication such as a collar or an oral or topical treatment. You should schedule an appointment right away if:
- Your pet is lethargic.
- They lose weight unexpectedly.
- They are scooting across the floor.
- You notice tapeworm segments in their stool — these are usually about a half-inch long and resemble grains of rice or cucumber seeds.
- Their gums are pale.
These symptoms may point to an issue such as a tapeworm. The sooner you address them, the sooner you can restore your petâs health and quality of life.
Elizabeth A. Layne, DVM, clinical instructor of dermatology and allergy, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.
Ari Zabell, DVM, veterinarian and client advocate, Banfield Pet Hospital, Portland, OR.
Applied Animal Behavioral Science: âGrooming and control of fleas in cats.â
Merck Manual: Veterinary Manual: âFlea Allergy Dermatitis.â
Natural Resources Defense Council: âNontoxic Ways to Protect Pets.â
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: âFleas and Ticks.â
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: âControlling Fleas and Ticks Around Your Home.â
American Kennel Club: âTapeworms in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention.â
DIY Pest Control Guide: âDoes Vacuuming Kill Fleas?â
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How To Deal With Puppy Separation Anxiety
If your puppy scratches at the door, cries or barks excessively, goes to the bathroom in the house and/or chews things every time your family leaves the house, he may be suffering from separation anxiety.
Why some puppies develop separation anxiety and some dont is not fully understood. Whatever the cause, its important to realize these behaviors are not malicious and that they are likely panic or other coping behaviors. Punishing your puppy will not eliminate separation anxiety. Gradually adjusting your puppy to being alone is the best approach.
Preventing Separation Anxiety
Its good for your puppy to be comfortable when home alone. You can help him learn this by taking a little time and following these simple steps. Start as soon as your puppy comes home, if possible.
A Do And A Dont
DO make leaving and arriving uneventful. By making leaving a big production lots of hugs and goodbyes or asking if hell miss you you may increase your puppys anxiety level. You may want to consider giving him a treat or an appropriate toy so that he associates the crate with something positive. Leaving the television or a radio on may help too.
DONT get overly excited when you return. Just let your puppy out of his crate promptly and take him outside as he may need to relieve himself. As he gets older and has better control of his bladder, wait until your puppy is calm and quiet, then casually go greet him and praise him for being calm and quiet.