How To Help Your Dog Deal With Separation Anxiety
Dogs may experience separation anxiety when they are away from their pet parent or primary caregiver. Up to 20% of dogs may experience separation anxiety during their lifetime, according to a Scientific Reportsstudy. This can contribute to tendencies like barking, whining, a reluctance to sleep, and a refusal to participate in other activities.
Some dogs are more prone to separation anxiety than others. Many puppies and young dogs naturally experience some degree of it as they age. Dogs who are already dealing with other stressorsa new diet, a new home, new pet parents, or other factorscan also experience separation anxiety at heightened levels.
This may occur regardless of training or disposition and will often cause dogs to act contrary to their typical behaviors. No matter your dogs amount of training or baseline personality, separation anxiety can become a reality that affects your pets attitude and activity.
What Is Separation Anxiety
My dogs, Ardi and Reno , had really bad Separation Anxiety when my husband and I would leave for work. Coming home to a big mess after work every day was just terrible.
Brand new doggie parents often dont know that their dog has separation anxiety or how to make it stop.
Finding out the main cause for your dogs behavior can help you find solutions that will help them feel safe and stay calm while you are away.
Talk To Your Veterinarian About Your Dogs Separation Anxiety
If your dog is resistant to other types of training and behavior modification, then you may need to talk to your veterinarian about anxiety medication for your dog. No anxiety medicine is a cure-all, but there are two types of medication that could considerably help your dog.
Depending on your dogs anxiety, your vet might recommend long-acting or short-acting medication. Long-acting takes time to build up and is recommended for dogs that are going to be left alone on a consistent basis. If you regularly have to leave the house for work, this may be what your vet suggests. In contrast, for short-term anxiety relief in dogs that are left alone infrequently, they may recommend short-acting medication.
Neither type of treatment is meant to be all-encompassing. Combine these with the other methods in this list for best results, and make sure to give yourself some quality time with your pup.
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There Is Help For Separation Anxiety
As a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer, Maggie Pearson can help you and your dog to feel better! The goal of a separation anxiety behavior modification plan is to:
- Have a dog who can relax when youre not home, free of anxiety and fear
- Have an owner who can leave home without feeling stress, guilt or worry about their dog
- Have a dog who wont upset your neighbors with non-stop barking and vocalizing
Is My Dog Lonely
Dogs are social animals and many will prefer companions. However, this is not a cure for separation anxiety from you. These dogs are not in need of the company of another dog or human. They need you.
If you think your dog would be better with a companion, borrow their best four-legged friend and see how they respond. Then you know another dog is the solution to make your hound happy whilst you are away.
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Canine Separation Anxiety: Strategies For Treatment And Management
Accepted for publication 28 August 2014
30 October 2014Volume 2014:5 Pages 143151
Dogs without separation-related behavior problems are passive and inactive in their owners absence,1,2 and the initially anxious behavior of puppies separated from their owners3 has been found to decrease quickly after adoption.4 Dogs with separation-related behavior problems, in contrast, engage in undesirable behaviors when left alone. The most common of these are destruction and excessive vocalization, including whining and barking.59 Less common problem behaviors include inappropriate elimination , self-injurious behavior , increased or repetitive motor activity , attempts to escape, trembling, salivation, and depression.10,11
The bond formed between dogs and their human owners is consistent with an attachment.12 The emotional attachment between adult dogs and their owners, even in the absence of separation-related behavior problems, has been found to be similar to that displayed by human adults and their children.13 This is not surprising given that dogs have been selected for their dependence on humans over 10,000 or more years of domestication.13
Importance of separation-related problems
Factors that predispose dogs to separation-related behavior problems
Treatments for canine separation anxiety
Table 1 Options for the treatment of canine separation-related behavior problems
Other factors that may help
Avoid Punishment And Getting Another Dog
If your dog seems anxious about your departure and displays destructive behavior like spoiling your house, digging in the carpet, or chewing on your shoes, you should avoid punishment. Punishment will only increase your dogs anxiety, and matter can only worsen in the future.
Therefore, avoid punishment and an emotional greeting to your dog. When you get home, ignore your dog for 15 to 20 minutes until your dog calms down. Your dog will learn that the sooner he calms down, the sooner he will get your attention.
On the other hand, if you punish your dog when you get home, it will only increase separation anxiety. It will not have any positive effect on your dogs behavior. Similarly, having another pet will not help decrease the dogs separation anxiety and cause more stress.
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Understand The Root Of Your Dogs Anxiety
First and foremost, you need to understand the root of your pets anxiety. While dogs experience many different forms of anxiety, one of the easiest ways to tell if your dog has separation anxiety is by looking at their symptoms. For example, if your pet looks anxious or panicky when they are left alone in a specific area or room, they may be suffering from separation anxiety. Destructive behaviors, such as chewing or marking, can be symptoms of separation anxiety as well.
Other Problems That Can Cause Barking
Illness or InjuryDogs sometimes bark in response to pain or a painful condition. Before attempting to resolve your dogs barking problem, please have your dog examined by a veterinarian to rule out medical causes.
Excessive barking due to separation anxiety occurs only when a dogs caretaker is gone or when the dog is left alone. Youll usually see at least one other separation anxiety symptom as well, like pacing, destruction, elimination, depression or other signs of distress. For more information about this problem, please see our article, .
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How To Prevent Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Active, stimulated dogs may be less likely to develop separation anxiety. Keeping your pet active can help, and regular training sessions even for well-behaved dogs will reinforce positive behaviors. Routine exercise and training also provide structure. Sometimes, relaxing a training routine can actually lead to separation anxiety, which is another possible cause to consider when you speak with your veterinarian.
Discouraging certain behaviors can also help prevent separation anxiety from developing. Needy behaviors like scratching or excessively seeking attention may seem cute but could be a sign that your dog does not know how to comfort themselves. You can help them become more self-sufficient by gently discouraging or ignoring these behaviors.
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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How Do You Know If Your Dog Is Happy Alone
Pop a filming device up in the room you leave your dog alone at home. It will give you the answer.
Helping your dog relax at home
Place your dog in a room at the back of the house. Its quiet and there are no worries about a knock at the door or letters being delivered. For many dogs, these activities are a great concern.
No opportunity to sit and bark out of the window at passers-by means there is no guard job to do for dogs. Out of sight is out of mind.
Provide A Distraction For Your Dog
When you leave, provide some kind of distraction for your dog. Austin Pets Alive! is a fan of using Kong toys, filling them with peanut butter or wet food, topped with peanut butter, and freezing them. This gives dogs something to lick and chew on for hours since the frozen peanut butter lasts longer. Make sure the peanut butter doesnt contain xylitol or erythritol because its toxic to dogs. Here are some more great ways to stuff a Kong toy by our friends at San Diego Humane Society.
Another way you can provide distraction is with white noise. This could be by leaving the tv on, the radio, or using a white noise soundtrack. Make sure the noise is something your dog is familiar with, and that it isnt too loud, so that it does have a calming effect. This is a good tactic if there is a lot of external noise that is bothering your dog while youre gone.
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How To Handle A More Severe Problem
Use the techniques outlined above along with desensitization training. Teach your dog the sit-stay and down-stay commands using positive reinforcement. This training will help them learn that they can remain calmly and happily in one place while you go to another room.
Exercise and mental stimulation are critical to reducing anxiety and stress. Be sure your dog receives adequate exercise before you leave. Walking the same city block each day wont reduce anxiety, but sniffing and exploring new places will.
Create a “safe place” to limit your dog’s ability to be destructive while youre away. A safe place should:
- Confine the dog loosely .
- Contain busy toys for distraction.
- Have dirty laundry to lend a calming scent cue or other safety cues.
Treating Dog Separation Anxiety
Owners cannot be with their beloved put 24/7. You must go to work, school, shopping, or leave the house for other reasons. It is imperative that you overcome separation anxiety.
- Crate Training: Dogs are natural den animals. In the wild, the wolves and other canines seek safety in a den. Your domesticated dogs DNA pushes the animal to feel safest in a den-like setting which is why crate training is ideal. Your furry friend will come to see the crate as a safe retreat. A place of calmness and solace which is beneficial for animals that suffer from separation anxiety.
- Desensitize: Leave Fido alone for short periods of time. Before you leave, give the dog a high value treat that you know he will enjoy. Some pets start to associate being left alone with receiving a treat.
- Exercise: Take your dog for a walk or play a game of fetch before you leave to tire out the animal, so they rest and relax while you are gone.
- Medication: Sometimes youll need to turn to medications to calm your dog. Talk with your veterinarian about prescription medications. You can also explore homeopathic treatments such as CBD and pheromone collars which bring rest and relaxation to the pet. Compress shirts act like swaddling a baby and have also been shown as a successful option.
Dog separation anxiety is not easy to overcome but with time and patience, you can conquer the problem.
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Resist The Temptation To Fuss Over Your Dog Before Leaving
It is a natural inclination to want to comfort your furry friend during an episode of separation anxiety, but fussing over your dog too much prior to leaving home can actually exacerbate the symptoms of separation anxiety. The dog may feel even more anxious because you are acting like there is something about to happen, and if you seem worried, the dog will likely be worried as well.
How To Help Your Dog With Separation Anxiety
When it comes to helping your dog with separation anxiety, the first piece of advice is to start addressing the problem early so your pet has plenty of time to adapt. Whether you recently adopted a new dog or your longtime companion has simply grown accustomed to your pandemic routine, any change will be difficult unless you properly prepare them.
Also, remember that baby steps are best. If you can tell your training efforts are causing your pet even more stress, its okay to pause or take a step back so your pet has more time to adjust. The idea is that you are training your dog to be comfortable alone and that takes time.
Here are eight ways to help you treat your dogs separation anxiety:
1. Positive reinforcement
Set aside time each day to practice a departure and return routine with your dog. Not only does this help get your dog used to seeing you come and go, but its also a way to shift the focus from you to some other reward.
When you return, dont make it a special event. If youre crate training, take your shoes off, have a drink of water, and then let your dog out of their crate. As hard as it may be, ignore your dog until they calm down and then reward them with some attention, a walk outside, or playtime with a special toy.
2. Crate training
3. Independence training
4. Activity and entertainment
While the old adage A tired dog is a good dog isnt always true, keeping your dog physically and mentally engaged is a great way to help reduce separation anxiety.
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How To Stop Separation Anxiety In Dogs
As a pet parent, your goal is to find the best calming anxiety treatments for your pet. Treating separation anxiety in dogs does not require a medical professional, and you can succeed on your own with persistent work and dedication. Dog anxiety treatment includes behavioral changes that will help your pup learn that being alone is not scary. Here is a list of 10 dog calming treatments:
What To Do If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Treatment for Moderate to Severe Separation AnxietyModerate or severe cases of separation anxiety require a more complex desensitization and counterconditioning program. In these cases, its crucial to gradually accustom a dog to being alone by starting with many short separations that do not produce anxiety and then gradually increasing the duration of the separations over many weeks of daily sessions.
The following steps briefly describe a desensitization and counterconditioning program. Please keep in mind that this is a short, general explanation.
Step One: Predeparture CuesAs mentioned above, some dogs begin to feel anxious while their guardians get ready to leave. For example, a dog might start to pace, pant and whine when he notices his guardian applying makeup, putting on shoes and a coat, and then picking up a bag or car keys. Guardians of dogs who become upset during predeparture rituals are unable to leaveeven for just few secondswithout triggering their dogs extreme anxiety. Your dog may see telltale cues that youre leaving and get so anxious about being left alone that he cant control himself and forgets that youll come back.
Medications Might HelpAlways consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist before giving your dog any type of medication for a behavior problem.
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What Is Dog Separation Anxiety
is a stress response that a dog exhibits when the person that the dog is bonded to is away from home.
Tina Flores, KPA-CTP, CSAT, certified separation anxiety trainer explains, When a dog is experiencing separation anxiety, it is quite similar to a panic attack in a human. A human, for example, with a fear of heights who is placed on top of a tall building might exhibit sweaty palms, dry mouth and fast heart rate. In the same way, every time a dog who has separation anxiety is left alone, their bodies are flooded with the same stress hormones.
The dogs reactions can range from mild distress, like pacing and whining, to extreme anxiety, resulting in dogs that injure themselves when attempting to escape confinement.
While there is no single reason why some dogs develop this challenging response to being left alone, for many dogs, its related to a traumatic event or an environmental change that they found upsetting. Examples include:
Changes in the family dynamic
Changes in lifestyle
Changes in routine
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How To Treat Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Even in cases of medically induced separation anxiety, however, behavior modification is critical for successful treatment. Consulting a trainer or a behavioral specialist recommended by your veterinarian can help you create a plan for treating your dogs condition. Common steps include increasing exercise and play, encouraging independence, ignoring attention-seeking behaviors and encouraging calm behaviors, adjusting arrival and departure habits to reduce stress, and ceasing punishment, as punishment is ineffective and only increases your dogs stress levels.
Treating separation anxiety takes time, and some dogs never learn to reliably comfort themselves. During the training process, consider using alternative measures like pet sitters, doggy daycare centers, or making arrangements to take your dog with you whenever possible.