How to Help my Dog with Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can be a serious problem for pups and their owners. This issue goes beyond the regular little whimpers and whines as owners get ready to leave the house. Destructive behavior can result from separation anxiety, leaving parts of the house torn up, as well as can be potentially dangerous for the dog. Being able to properly recognize true separation anxiety symptoms early on will ensure your furry friend can get the proper help and training that they need in order to overcome it.
However, it can be difficult to tell whether or not your companion is suffering from separation anxiety or if it is just bad behavior. A good indicator is if your pup still exhibits similar behavior when you are around. If so, this is probably just due to a lack of training and not separation anxiety. If you are still uncertain, consider setting up a video camera in your home to record how your pup reacts when you are away.
What Causes Separation Anxiety?
It isn’t clear why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety over others. There can be a number of experiences that trigger separation anxiety, including being abandoned at a shelter, losing a loved one, change in routine, moving to a new place, and experiencing a traumatic event while being left alone.
Due to there being a number of factors that can contribute to a pup’s separation anxiety, it’s important to be able to recognize and help ease your dog’s separation anxiety early on before it gets worse.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
There are a number of symptoms and indicators that your pup may be experiencing separation anxiety when they are alone. These indications of extreme stress can include:
- Excessive howling or barking
- Trying to escape
- Having “accidents” inside despite being potty trained
- Chewing, tearing, and digging
- Excessive drooling and panting
How to Ease Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Depending on the severity of the situation, there are a number of ways to treat separation anxiety. All possible solutions do require lots of patience and a persistent mindset, as it will take time for your furry friend to overcome their separation anxiety.
Potential treatments to help ease your dog’s separation anxiety include:
- Counterconditioning: Counterconditioning takes a negative experience or feeling and turns it into something positive. One way to do this is to give your pup some delicious food or treats to enjoy while you are away. This turns a negative experience (being left alone) into a positive one (receiving tasty food). By doing this enough, your dog will be able to associate being alone with a more positive experience. A great tip is to fill a KONG toy with their favorite food or treat. You can even freeze the toy the night before to make it last longer.
- Gradually accustom your dog to being alone: This is a more time-consuming treatment and requires great patience for it to be successful. To help ease your dog’s separation anxiety, practice having them stay in one room and leaving the room for a short period of time. You don’t need to leave the house but simply be out of sight. As your dog becomes more comfortable, slowly work your way up to leaving the house for a few minutes at a time.
- Avoid exciting your dog when you come/go: When you are leaving your house, avoid exciting your dog any further or encouraging anxious behavior. When you are getting ready to leave, don’t give your pup too much attention or make your departure a bigger deal. Simply pat them on their head and go on your way. Likewise, when you return home, give them a few minutes to calm down before giving them any attention.
- Medications and over-the-counter supplements: If necessary, consult your veterinarian regarding medications to help your pup overcome anxiety and panic disorders. Depending on the situation, your vet may prescribe medication or can direct you toward natural supplements.
Being able to recognize the early signs and symptoms of separation anxiety is key to helping your dog overcome these negative experiences. The course of treatment is not a one-size-fits-all case and it may require several attempts and lots of patience. If you need an extra hand, consider reaching out for professional help. A professional can assist you in helping your dog with separation anxiety and give you the tools you need to help your furry companion get on the right path.
[Disclaimer] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.