Did you know that dogs can experience separation anxiety? It’s true; they can, and sadly, separation anxiety is one of the primary reasons that dogs can end up in shelters. Separation Anxiety is a behavior problem in dogs that can manifest itself through a variety of symptoms, such as:
- Urinating and defecating in the house
- Barking and howling
- Chewing, digging, and destruction
- Escaping from their yard or kennel
- Coprophagia-eating their excrement
What causes separation anxiety? A number of things can contribute to it, such as:
- A change in schedule: dogs are creatures of habit, and if their routine changes, that can be very unsettling to them.
- Change of guardian or family
- Change in residence
- Change in the household membership, such as a death or a son or daughter moving out of the home.
Soothing Separation Anxiety
There are a number of things you can do to soothe the anxiety that your dog may be experiencing.
If your dog has just a mild case of separation anxiety, then working with him or her to provide a fun distraction while you prepare to leave is a good approach. Basically, with counterconditioning, you provide a fun toy or a treat that teaches them to associate this with your leaving. Over time, they begin to learn that being alone is not something to fear but to look forward to since they get a treat. A KONG toy is a great tool for counterconditioning because it allows you to put food inside the toy, which keeps the dog occupied for quite a while trying to get the food out.
This is for more severe cases of separation anxiety and requires more of a process of conditioning your dog with more gradual training. With this type of training, you will want to start separating from your dog for shorter periods of time and then gradually work up to longer periods. This can be a bit more of a challenge if your dog has a more severe case of separation anxiety and at times, may require help from a professional.
- Perfect the Exit
This is similar to the counterconditioning mentioned above. When you are training your dog to be alone for a period of time, practice leaving for short periods of time and then increase the length of your absence. This will teach your pet that you always return.
- Utilize the Crate
Training your dog to be in their crate while you’re away can also be a helpful tool in soothing their anxiety. Take the time over the weekend to train your dog in the crate and observe how he or she does. This will allow you to see if they exhibit signs of distress while in the crate such as heavy panting, salivating, howling, barking or frantic attempts to escape. If this proves to not work for your dog, consider getting a baby gate and confining him to one specific area in your home.
- Wear them Out
Exercising your pet regularly will tire them out and cause them to sleep more while you’re gone.
- Remove Reminders of your Absence
A toy or leash will remind your pet that you’re gone, so make sure those items are out of sight once you leave the house.
- Use Calming Scents
Yes, believe it or not, there are dog-appeasing pheromones that are designed to help dogs relax. They are available in collars and other devices and can be found online or at many pet stores.
- Wrap them Up
ThunderShirt is a great tool to keep your dog calm while you’re away. It’s a body wrap that swaddles and calms your dog. They cost around $40 and are available online or at most pet stores. These are also a great tool on the 4th of July if Fireworks make your dog jittery.
- Doggie Daycare
Doggie daycare is one of the BEST ways to soothe separation anxiety in your pet. Doggie daycare provides your dog with exercise, mental stimulation, and a consistent routine, all of which can help soothe separation anxiety. Plus, it offers the additional benefit of your pet receiving daily care from trained professionals who genuinely care for your pets and who are trained to recognize destructive behavior and work with your pet to overcome it. Here at Hillrose Pet Resort, our daycare package is one of the best available. Our team members love working with and caring for animals and will be with your pet from the time they arrive until they leave.