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.
How Do You Help A Dog With Separation Anxiety
Give your dog at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity every day. Try to exercise your dog right before you have to leave him by himself. This might help him relax and rest while youre gone. Play fun, interactive games with your dog, such as fetch and tug-of-war.
Senior Dogs With Separation Anxiety
Sometimes separation anxiety is more related to the night time obscurity than to be left alone.
This is particularly prevalent among senior dogs and it is related to dementia or canine cognitive dysfunction .
Like many cases of dementia in humans, CCD in dogs is a result of the effects of aging of the brain.
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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
Recovery And Management Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Managing separation anxiety requires patience. Your veterinarian will help you come up with a treatment plan and training regimen, but there are some things you can do in the meantime to alleviate some of your dogs stress. Frequent exercise, for example, can help tire your dog out and stimulate her physically and mentally prior to time spent alone. Training, exercise, and play sessions not only eliminate boredom, but they also help you build stronger bonds with your dog, and can help build your dogs confidence. Slow feeding bowls or toys can also provide your dog with a tasty distraction while you are gone. This can be especially helpful if you are only leaving the house for short periods, as it can reinforce positive experiences with solitude.
Many owners accidentally reinforce negative behaviors. Staying calm when leaving the house will help your dog remain calm, and it is equally important to remain calm when you return. While it may be hard to ignore your dogs exuberant greeting, feeding into it can heighten your dogs anxiety around arrivals and departures.
Some high-energy dogs may require more stimulation than others. Doggy daycares can help tire these dogs out while also reducing the stress that separation anxiety places on owners. Getting involved in dog sports or activities can also stimulate these dogs and reduce boredom-induced destructive behaviors.
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Use Training Enrichment Activities And Calming Tools To Set Your Dog Up For Success
Other forms of training could help make your dog’s transition to more frequent alone time easier. Sueda recommends reinforcing calm behaviors using a go-to-mat cue or capturing relaxed postures. This is also a great time to work on slow, incremental x-pen or crate training.
Adding more enrichment is also valuable. “Creating an environment where the dog really loves interactive feeding toys and enjoys playing the ‘find the treats hidden in the house’ game can be really powerful when we go back to work we can give them something to do,” said DeMartini-Price.
Before you return to work or school, Sueda recommends gradually building up the amount of time you are away, rather than jumping from zero to 10 hours a day. You can gradually increase your time away over a period of one to two weeks. During that time, observe your dog’s reaction to your absence over a camera like the affordable Wyze Cam.
Sueda said that dog-appeasing pheromone , white noise, and nutraceuticals like Zylkene or Anxitane might also help reduce anxiety. Be sure to introduce them when you’re at home so your dog doesn’t only associate them with you leaving.
How Do You Know If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
You come home from work and find a nasty note from your neighbor complaining about howling from your dog again.
Or you return home from class to find that your dog has peed all over the house, destroyed the curtains, unstuffed your couch, or dug through the door. Does your dog have SA?
Most animal behavior experts will draw lines between separation anxiety, separation distress, isolation distress, and other nitty-gritty terms based on if the dog is attached to one person, all people, or if any warm body will do.
For the purpose of treatment, though, it doesnt really matter much if your dog suffers from separation anxiety versus isolation distress. Either way, your dog panics while youre gone.
Theres another reason to put separation anxiety firmly in the category of panic or anxiety disorder: As many as 88% of dogs with noise phobias also have separation anxiety.
In the words of the authors of the 2001 Tufts study:
This suggests that the interaction of multiple pathologic responses to noise likely reflects an altered dysfunctional underlying neurochemical substrate or is the result of one.
In other words, dogs that struggle with both SA and noise phobias might have unusual brains that respond to stress differently.
Remember, your dog with separation anxiety isnt mad that you left. Shes petrified and has a panic disorder.
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Seeking The Help Of A Professional
If our treatment advice hasn’t eased the separation-related behaviour, talk to a vet who knows you and your dog. They should then refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist. They’ll help you identify the underlying cause of the problem and develop a treatment plan that works for your dog as well as you.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dog Anxiety
Its possible to tell if your dog is stressed or anxious from numerous different signs. You may find that your dog displays some of these behaviours more during the night, but most often its when youve just left the house, which is why it may help to set up a pet camera to catch these indicators.
- Excessive whining, barking, or howling.
- Urinating and defecating inside the house.
- Chewing furniture, doors, and skirting boards, or chewing items with your scent on them.
- Frantically scratching at doors and carpets.
- Jumping up at doors and window sills to look for you.
- Constantly following you around the house.
- Excessive panting and salivating, particularly just as you leave or when you first return home.
- Pacing around when they can see you are about to leave.
- Working themselves up so much that they vomit.
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How To Cope While Your Dog Learns To Be Calm
It can take time for your dog to unlearn their panic response to your departures. To help you and your dog cope in the short term, consider the following interim solutions:
- Ask your veterinarian about drug therapy to reduce your dogs overall anxiety.
- If your dog enjoys the company of other dogs, take your dog to a well-run doggie daycare facility or kennel when you have to be away.
- Leave your dog with a friend, family member or neighbor when youre away.
- Take your dog to work with you, if possible.
Teaching Your Puppy How To Be Alone
Note: keep training sessions short for young puppies! Just 5-10 minutes of practice goes a long way. Practice each day to make separations a routine part of your pups day, and always work at a level of separation where they are not showing signs of stress. If your puppy begins to show signs of stress, go back a few steps to a point in the process at which they were still having fun.
Create a safe enclosure for your puppys alone time.
Provide your puppy with a puppy-proof enclosure for alone time this could be a room, a crate, or a secured exercise pen.
Make sure there are not any dangerous items, such as electrical cords or loose socks that your puppy may ingest, and that there is fresh water available.
Provide a comfortable and safe surface, such as a dog bed or mat that your puppy has been on and has not shown the inclination to ingest.
Have this safe enclosure freely available to your puppy so they can choose to spend time there whenever they want.
Build positive associations with the area.
Practice separations in the same room.
If your puppys safe area is a room, setting up a baby gate in the doorway will allow you to practice the steps below in sight of your puppy.
Practice separations with you out of sight.
Setting up a Wi-Fi-enabled camera in your puppys safe area allows you to watch out for signs of stress while you are out of sight of your puppy.
Practice separations with you leaving the house.
Additional tips for building independence.
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Leave Comfort Items And Background Music On For Your Dog
Items that have your scent such as dirty laundry can help your dog relax and remember that you will come back. Remove stress factors such as chokers, collars, chains, or crates if your dog doesnt like them. Hide treats around the house so they can hunt them while you’re away. Finally, soothing nature sounds can help your dog relax and fall asleep. You can monitor your dog through a Petcube Bites 2, a pet camera that doubles as a treat dispenser.
Never Punish Your Dog
On the occasion that your dog does something undesirable whilst you’re out, it’s important that you don’t show any signs of disapproval. Raising your voice or showing your disappointment might scare your dog and make the situation worse. Your dog will become anxious about what you will do when you return the next time you go out, making the anxiety and behaviour worse.
Dogs who’ve been told off may lower their head, put their ears back and put their tail between their legs. Sadly, owners often think that their dog looks guilty when they do this and so tell them off because they think they’ve done wrong.
However, even if you take your dog to the ‘scene of the crime’ they won’t associate your anger with their earlier behaviour. Your dog will simply become more anxious the next time you go out. If you do come home to a mess, it’s essential not to physically punish or shout at your dog.
Try to avoid even letting your dog see that you’re annoyed – let them outside before cleaning up.
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How To Cure Separation Anxiety In Dogs My Advice
Know that the cure for separation anxiety is a process that will likely involve many components. Unfortunately, there might not be one magic silver bullet, it might be a combination of things like what I revealed in my story.
If youre battling separation issues with your pup, I hope my story has given you some hope. My solution may not be the exact solution for your dog, but I hope some of the tips and tricks will help. Keep at it, and never give up. Your dog is worth it!
Has this advice helped you? Is there any other way I can help? Feel free to reach out to me at justinhomelifemedia.com
> Dog Breeds With Separation Anxiety
Some dog breeds may be more likely to develop separation anxiety than others. These breeds are highly sociable canines with a strong pack mentality, meaning they could become highly attached to their owner. Of course, it often comes down to your dogs individual personality, so each pooch is unique.
- Bichon Frise
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How Long Can My Dog Be Left Alone
As a general rule, your dog should never be left alone for more than four hours at a time. However, this will greatly depend on your dog, their age, breed and how they cope with being on their own in the house. Some may struggle being away from their owners for this long and others will be unphased.
Gradually Work Up To Longer Periods Away
This step requires a large amount of time and energy on an owner’s part and a real commitment to your pet. Once this process is started, it’s important your dog is never left alone for extended periods until its anxiety is completely gone. It can take several weeks to get to this point, so you may need to take some vacation time, hire a pet sitter, or enroll your dog in doggie daycare until you’ve completed this step. Unless your dog sees its crate as a place of relaxation and comfort, you’ll want to avoid crating your dog during this period, as that can exacerbate anxiety.
Once you have a plan in place to make sure your dog is never alone, it’s time to start getting your dog used to your being away. Try to spend at least 30 minutes each day on each training session.
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My Dog Is Traumatized After Boarding
This is somewhat common. Separation anxiety is caused by a fear that a dogs owner will leave them and not return, and as far as a dog is concerned, being left in kennels is akin to abandonment. Throw in the fact that living in such proximity to other dogs may cause them to become unwell, and you have a recipe for discomfort.
If you must go away for any prolonged period of time, consider asking a trusted friend or family member to take care of your dog that means bringing your hound into their home, not leaving them locked up alone all day aside from an hour of visiting and changing water bowls.
In reality, though, you should not consider leaving your pet for any prolonged period of time. Being a doggy parent means that your furry friend tends to come with you wherever you go as part of a package deal.
If The Problem Is More Serious
A dog with severe anxiety won’t be distracted by even the tastiest treats. You’ll need to slowly get them used to your absence.
They may start to get nervous when they see signs you’re about to leave, like putting on your shoes or picking up your keys. So do those things, but then don’t leave. Put on your shoes and then sit down at the table. Pick up your keys and watch TV. Do this over and over many times a day.
When your dog starts to feel less anxious about that, you can slowly start to disappear. First just go on the other side of the door. Ask your dog to stay, then close an inside door between you. Reappear after a few seconds. Slowly increase the amount of time you’re gone. Put on your shoes and pick up your keys. Ask your dog to stay while you go into another room.
As they get more used to the “stay game,” increase the amount of time you’re gone. Then use an outside door, but not the same one you go out every day. Make sure your dog is relaxed before you leave.
Only you can tell if your dog is ready to be left alone for longer periods. Don’t rush things. Give them a stuffed treat when you’ve built up to 10 seconds or so apart. Always act calm when you leave and when you return.
Gradually build up the time until you can leave the house for a few minutes. Then stay away for longer and longer periods.
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Leave Your Dog With A Good Audiobook
Studies have now shown that audiobooks can have a calming effect on dogs and help to lessen their separation anxiety. The sound of a human voice can help reduce their stress while youre not at home.
Do you have a success story about getting your dog through separation anxiety? Share the wisdom. Tell us how you did it in the comments.