Separation anxiety in pets, especially dogs, is not particularly uncommon, and some breeds are even predisposed to it. If your pet suffers from this type of anxiety, perhaps you have wondered how you can best help your pet with separation anxiety.
There are several different treatments and training processes that can aid in calming your dog’s anxiety when you leave. However, first let’s take a look at the signs and symptoms of the disorder.
Signs And Symptoms
Anxious behaviors include:
- Destructive chewing
- Whining, howling and excessive barking
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Scratching to try and find a way of escape while you are gone
Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety typically exhibit these behaviors every time you leave the house.
What Causes Separation Anxiety?
Some breeds are genetically predisposed to separation anxiety. Leaving a pet alone that is accustomed to human interaction can stir up anxiety. Traumatic events and a loss of a family member can also induce such anxiety.
How Can You Help Your Pet With Separation Anxiety?
First, it should be noted that helping a pet with separation anxiety is a process, and it cannot be completed overnight. Persistence in training your dog or pet is key.
Mild Anxiety Solutions
- Counterconditioning. Counterconditioning is a treatment in which you change your dog’s bad associations of being left home alone to good associations. This can be done by giving your dog a delicious treat, such as peanut butter in a KONG toy, every time you leave the house. This process is most effective when the treat takes your pet a long time to eat. Pretty soon, your dog will come to associate being left alone with something good. The goal is that instead of fearing being in the house alone, your pet will welcome it, because he knows something good is coming.
- Stay calm. Remain calm when you greet your pet after arriving home and when you leave. The Humane Society suggests calmly petting your dog after a few minutes of being home instead of excitedly greeting him right when you walk in the door.
- Leave a T-shirt. Another idea to help ease your pet is to give him a t-shirt that you slept in the night before. Your scent will be all over it, and it may have a more calming effect on your dog to have your scent with him.
- Medication. Talk to your veterinarian, but there are some medicines on the market that are used successfully in treating your dog’s anxiety. If you think this is the best solution, make sure to talk to your pet’s vet first.
Moderate To Severe Anxiety Solutions
If your dog suffers from severe separation anxiety, counterconditioning and desensitization processes are generally used. It might be helpful to get a trained and certified professional pet behaviorist to help if you think you need it.
- Desensitization. Desensitization is a long process in which you gradually train your dog to become comfortable with short leaves (maybe start by going behind a door for just a few seconds) and then you slowly but surely build up your dog’s tolerance, until you can leave for several hours with a stress-free dog.
- Have a friend or pet sitter come over. During the desensitization process or at anytime you have to leave the house for several hours, ask a friend or hire a pet sitter to come over. Many dogs will calm down when they have a human with them.
- Exercise. Exercising your pet can help decrease his level of stress. Try walking, running or swimming with your dog before you leave or sometime during the day.
- Create a “safe place.” Perhaps limit your dog to one room of the house where he can still roam around the room, but without making a widespread mess. Make sure to include some toys for him.
- Try The Exercises Listed Above. You can still practice every other exercise listed for dogs with mild separation anxiety. A treat-filled KONG to distract your dog and a T-shirt that smells like you may still be helpful if your dog is calm enough to focus on his toy or shirt.
Most importantly, make sure to never yell or get upset with your pet. This could only further increase anxiety instead of reducing it. Make sure to stay calm and loving throughout the training process.
If you believe your pet is suffering from separation anxiety and you need someone to check in on your pet while you are away, Cane Bay would love to be of assistance. If you have any questions or are interested in hiring a pet sitter, we would love to hear from you. You can call us at 843-879-0822.