Featured photo: How to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Dogs - a picture of a sad-looking dog
When it comes to behaviors caused by stress, we understand some of those that are common for humans. Regarding animals, especially dogs, their behavior is often not easy to understand. Separation anxiety in dogs is more common than we think. Yet this problem presents itself in different ways, from the sudden urge to bark and follow the owner to heavy breathing, urinating, and extreme fear. These are just some of the symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs.
How to know if your dog has separation anxiety?
If you have a furry friend in your home, you might suspect that this is the problem he’s dealing with. For us humans, this type of anxiety in dogs resembles a panic attack. There are plenty of reasons why your dog might be dealing with this. He might have been separated from the mother too early, or your dog lacks socializing skills, so he’s too attached to you as his owner. Also, some breeds are more prone to separation anxiety than others. You start treating this problem and its symptoms only after you recognize it.
Remember that your dog is never at fault for this behavior, but it might not be you. Factors like moving, a newborn baby arriving home, or sudden loud noises can trigger your little friend to get scared and depressed.
Common symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs
Before finding out how to treat this problem, let’s take a look at the symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs:
- Your dog shows apparent signs of stress.
- Your dog urinates and defecates in the house only when left alone.
- Your neighbors (and you) can hear the dog howling and barking loudly, which resembles crying.
- You can’t leave any fabric or furniture around your pet. If your dog chews or rips furniture, textile, and everything but their toys, it can be a sign of separation anxiety.
- Your dog escapes the yard every time you leave home. That should be a safe place for your pet, but they run away trying to leave the house with you.
- You can see your dog pacing around and going in circles (if you have cameras at home).
If you recognize any of the symptoms above, you might have to deal with separation anxiety in dogs. Don’t worry. There are ways you can treat this problem or at least minimize it.
How to treat separation anxiety in dogs?
One of the best ways to help your dog feel safe when you’re not home is to leave their favorite toy. It could be a chewable toy, or it could be a blanket. If none of these work, try to fill an empty beef bone with a spread (like peanut butter or pate) that is safe for him to eat. Your furry friend will have a lot of time trying to lick the spread out of the bone, entertaining him for a few hours.
However, if this trick doesn’t solve the problem, here’s what you can do.
If the problem is mild
- Try not to leave your dog for long periods. If you have to, try to prolong the amount they spend alone. It can be an excellent way to prepare them for your 8-hour shifts.
- Don’t make a big deal about your comings and goings. Your little friend should desensitize you from making a fuss whenever you walk in or out of your home.
- Leave some of your worn clothes nearby (in case they won’t chew them). The smell might soothe your dog.
If the problem is severe
In case you recognize a severe case of separation anxiety in dogs, there still might be things you can do. First, you must spend some time training your dog and preparing them for your absence. At first, try putting on your shoes and coat but stay in your home. That will allow your dog not to stress out about these “going away” signals. Spend 10 minutes like this and then take off the shoes and coat. If you do this for 3-5 days in a row, this action will not be a trigger for your dog before you leave home.
Besides this trick with the clothes, you should try to teach your dog the “stay” game. All you have to do is offer a treat anytime they stay still on command. While you’re pulling away, keep repeating the command stay with a calm voice. Gradually, you should move away more and more from your pet until they can stay in the other room without seeing you.
As time passes, you will probably see your dog calming down and accepting you not being at home for some time. If nothing works, you can try two options: the first one is to look for help from a professional trainer, and the other one is to hire a dog sitter.
Their environment can trigger the problem
Most dogs have some sort of separation anxiety, but it’s usually a mild case, and it’s evident in puppies who are not yet socialized. However, some severe cases of separation anxiety can be triggered in adult dogs and caused by outside factors. For example, moving from one home is usually a big stress for your furry friend, especially if it’s a long-distance move.
If you have to do this, you might want to hire professional help. For example, when moving from California to Arizona with your dog, you should rely on expert CA movers to do all the hard work. While movers are handling all the boxes and heavy furniture, you can spend time with your dog and make sure to calm them down.
Is nothing working? Consider hiring a dog sitter
Hiring a person to spend time with your dog is always good, even if your dog does not have separation anxiety. However, if you’re dealing with this problem, a dog sitter can be a quick, expensive solution. If you are working 8-hour shifts, you can hire a dog sitter for a few hours or hire a dog walker instead. A walk in the park can do wonders for your pet. Some dogs react better to anxiety when they spend their energy outside than if another person pet-sits them.
Separation anxiety in dogs can be very stressful for pets and their owners. Remember that this is not your dog's fault, no matter how hard it feels for you. Don’t, by any circumstances, hit your dog or yell at him if this problem appears. There is always one way or the other to treat his anxiety. All you have to do is listen to his needs and see what works for your pet.
✍🏼 Natalie Taylor