Is your pet dog behaving strangely when you come home these days? It may be separation anxiety. Dog separation anxiety refers to the excessive anxiety a dog feels about separation from the owner. Just like humans, dogs have strong emotional attachments – and they may have gotten used to having you around if you were forced to lockdown or spend more time at home as a result of the pandemic.
Despite spending more time at home due to COVID-19, our lifestyles are still busier than ever. Many of us still have to leave home early and return late, especially those working hard on the front line. This will likely take a toll on your dog, and he or she will consequently suffer from separation anxiety.
If you have noticed your pooch becoming more attached or upset when you leave, here are five dog separation anxiety solutions for your stressed out dog. Of course, if you are spending a lot of time away from your home and furry friend, a pet sitter or dog walker could be an excellent solution.
- Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!
Studies have shown that getting your body up and active reduces anxiety. This also works in dogs. Every morning before leaving home, take your dog for a walk. If you jog in the morning, why not let him tag along? Exercising will tire your dog and wear out his nervous energy.
After this, your dog will be calm and less anxious when you depart. Other than a solution to separation anxiety, this is a chance to bond with your pet. Do this as regularly as possible. Similarly, make sure your dog has everything he needs before you leave – toys, food, water – and the same things goes if you have a cat too. In this hot weather, keeping your pet hydrated is paramount, whether dog or cat.
- Enforce Calm Departures and Returns
Showing a lot of emotions and love to your pooch on your way out or coming back home may feel natural and like the correct thing to do. After all, you miss your dog as well. However, this can actually do some harm. The hugs and kisses you shower your dog with when you come home, teach him that you are going is a huge deal.
As a result, when you are gone, they can’t wait to see you return and shower them with that love. Anxiety builds up, making them restless.
The best and correct thing to do is to make departures calm. Make them as emotionless as you can. That confident energy that you project to your dog will keep him calm. Besides, he will have the ‘all will be okay’ feeling.
Do the same on your return. Ignore their excitement. Wait till they are calm to say hello. Turning your back away is the secret. You will not feel the guilt, and your dog will not get anxious.
- Defuse Your Departure Cues
If any pet is good at learning patterns and cues, it’s a dog! There are simple things that we do before leaving the house that eventually forms a noticeable habit. These cues include waking up time, breakfast time, picking up your car keys, switching off lights, wearing your coat, and setting the alarm.
Over time, your dog will know that once you do these, you are about to leave. He will start being anxious every time he sees you doing this.
So once in a while, playing with his mind is a good thing. Wear your coat and head to the kitchen. You can also pick up your car keys and sit to watch TV. Defusing these cues allows your dog to relax and prevents anxiety from building up.
He will also learn that those cues do not mean you are leaving. Defusing cues is one of the great dog separation anxiety solutions for your stressed out dog.
- Condition Your Dog for Departure
Conditioning refers to slowly teaching good habits. Dogs, like us, learn habits. When conditioning your dog for your departure, do it gradually. The first time, you can leave for a few minutes then come back. Go for about ten minutes and come back on the next day.
Gradually increase this time. Your dog will learn that even if you leave, you will still come back. This is one of the best dog separation anxiety solutions for your stressed-out dog.
Conditioning, however, requires consistency for it to work. You do not want to stress your dog out even more. Conditioning is a tedious solution, but the results are worth every minute. So do not give up along the way.
Related: The 5 Habits of Good Dog Parents
- Tried Everything? Ask Your Vet About Supplements or Anxiety Medication
This solution comes last in the list. Take this step in extreme anxiety states or when all the above have failed. However, before proceeding to give any supplements or meds to your dog, consult your veterinarian. Get proper advice and research thoroughly on what will work for you and your pup.
For supplements, natural ones are best. You can get a pseudo treat since they have a calming effect, but again, always chat with your vet first.
What Causes Anxiety in Dogs?
You may be wondering what could cause your dog to be stressed out.
Change of environment or ownership. Most newly adopted or rescued dogs from the streets get stressed with the change in the environment. They form attachments to the new owner as they feel comfortable in their company. The dogs, therefore, get anxious once the owner is no longer around.
Sudden change in routine can also play a part in separation anxiety. When your dog is used to your company all day then you suddenly start leaving them alone all day, they get stressed out and hence suffer from separation anxiety. You can also look into solving this problem with a dog crate for separation anxiety.
What Are the Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
How do I know that my dog is suffering from separation anxiety?
Your dog will start pacing around, drooling, and unnecessarily barking in the house or even jump out the window as soon as you leave. Some dogs become destructive. Since dogs can’t speak to you about their feelings, they may resort to destructive behavior.
If you see a trained dog inappropriately eliminating waste in the house, just after the owner has left, blame that separation anxiety. Other dogs get too excited when the owner gets home. All these are signs of separation anxiety.
Before concluding that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, visit a vet. Eliminate any other health issues that may cause him to act up. At times to get the results you want, you may have to use some tough love on your dog.
Being too sympathetic to him will always do more harm than good. Finally, ignore the guilt you will feel when enforcing the five dog separation anxiety solutions for your stressed out dog.
About the Author:
Emma is a professional writer and blogger, with two furry friends and a lot of pet behavioral and pet health knowledge to share. She has written for numerous big animal magazines and health sites, and is a regular contributor to The Catington Post.