When we grow emotionally attached to someone, the idea of having to sever ties with that person leaves us in fear. Medical experts have a term for it—separation anxiety. It’s not usual, but neither is it a good thing. This disorder has left many miserable. But did you know this is observed in dogs too? Separation anxiety in dogs is more common than you thought, yet not a lot of owners know the proper way of dealing with dog separation anxiety.
If your pet shows seemingly abnormal dog behaviors every time you head out of the house, that could be a sign of separation anxiety. If they become destructive when you leave the house or if they just can’t seem to leave your side when you get home after being away for a while and get suspicious when you’re about to head out again, it’s high time you do something and start dealing with dog separation anxiety before it causes more damage to you and your pet.
Tips for Dealing with Dog Separation Anxiety
There are things you can do when dealing with dog separation anxiety, but just like any other disease, treating it can’t be done without understanding what it really is.
What causes dog separation anxiety?
The signs of separation anxiety in dogs are pretty noticeable, which include destructive chewing, howling, barking, digging, and scratching—but not its causes. But experts have pointed out some possible triggers.
Being left alone after a long time and having to deal with a traumatic event are the most common experiences that trigger dog separation anxiety. A change in routine, loss of a family member, and being left after getting accustomed to human interaction can cause anxiety too.
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How can separation anxiety in dogs be treated?
If treating canine anxiety in general is possible, so is managing dog separation anxiety.
Minor separation anxiety in dogs can be dealt with easier. First thing to remember in dealing with dog separation anxiety is that not making a big deal out of departure pays off. You can ignore your pet for a few minutes then calm them right after. When you leave, you can give them some clothes of yours that have your smell, which they can temporarily cling to while you’re away. Also, assure them that you will come back. You can establish a word or action that means you’ll return that you can use every time you head out.
More severe dog separation anxiety, however, requires more effort. In treating major anxiety in dogs, you can use the same tips for handling minor anxiety problem, but it is important that together with it, you reinforce desensitization training. Teach your dog to remain calm as you go to a different room. This can be done using the sit-stay and down-stay commands.
While you’re away, you must provide them with a place that would serve as their safe haven. This safe place should have a window and is filled with toys that will keep them busy while you’re out. Placing a dirty laundry in the room that gives off a calming scent cue or other safety cues help as well.
Learning to be calm, however, does not happen overnight. You can’t train them now and expect them to master the art of calming down while you’re away the next day. It takes a while, and as you two try to get used to this, there are things you can do to speed the process up. Taking your dog to a daycare facility for pets while you’re away is a commonly adopted solution. To have them get used to not having you around, you can leave them a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor before you go out. Taking them with you to work is advisable as well. Lastly, consult your veterinarian and ask if there’s any drug therapy that can help lower their anxiety.
What should be avoided to better handle dog separation anxiety?
There are things to be avoided to manage separation anxiety. First, getting your pet a companion dog might not be the best idea. What your dog is anxious about is you leaving him and not the idea of being all alone. So getting a friend is not always the best solution. Another thing to avoid is punishment. It should also be remembered that turning on the radio or television to keep them distracted is not really a solution. Crating does not help either. You might think placing them in a crate will reduce their anxiety, but no, it does not. If anything, there’s a tendency they will try to escape.
Separation anxiety is brought about by the fear that you might leave them for good, not disobedience, so obedience training is something that should be avoided too.
While it is good for you and your pet that you know enough tips for dealing with dog separation anxiety, it is still better that you pay your veterinarian a visit and discuss the problem with them.