Combating Canine Separation Anxiety
As pack animals, it’s only natural for our dogs to love being with us and dread the moments when we leave. If you have a melancholy pooch when you disappear for a trip to the store, don’t stress, this is totally normal! It’s when that daily upset turns into fear and insecurity that our four legged friends have developed separation anxiety and could use our help to keep their cool when we’re gone. Check out these tips to combat and even cure separation anxiety in dogs.
1. No such thing as a tired tyrant
A tired dog is a well-behaved dog. If you come home to torn up couch cushions, chewed shoes or a knocked over garbage can eg. excess energy and pent-up stress are likely to blame. When you leave and your dog becomes a destructive ball of fluff and fur, a long walk can go a long way.
Before leaving your home for any period of time, take your dog for a walk. If you have a high-energy pup, the longer the better. For a more laid-back dog, a walk around the block gives them the chance to use the bathroom and burn off any extra energy. It’s hard to stress about your owner coming home when you’re too tired to stay awake!
Supplying your dog with a safe place like a crate or a small comfy space is a great way to encourage them to relax when you leave. Keeping your dog’s bed or crate in a room that’s away from the door you come and go from creates major Fido FOMO. Instead, put your dog’s crate or dog bed in a location that faces the door you come and go from to allow your dog to keep watch while staying calm in the comfort of their safe space. If you need advice on how to set up a crate check out our article Pooch Prep: 5 Things you Need to Consider Before you Bring Home your New Dog
2. Save the celly for the field
“Hi baby doggie sweetheart puppy!” “I’ve missed you so much!” “Come get a treat!” Sound familiar? We all do it: hooting, hollering and celebrating our arrival home is a difficult habit to curb. After all, what’s better than re-uniting with your four-legged friend(s) after a long day at work? The truth is, celebrating our arrival home creates a stress filled situation for our dogs. Picture this: you’re taking a relaxing mid-day nap in a quiet house while you’re home alone. Bam! The door bursts open and your mother is jumping on the bed, telling you how happy she is to see you and bringing you a bag of your favorite candy. You’ve been startled, woken and your heart is probably beating a mile a minute. You’re groggy and confused and now she wants you to eat some candy? Alarming right? This is what it feels like for our dogs when we arrive home in a flurry of excitement and chaos. A quiet house becomes a noisy one and our dogs are thrown into a state of adrenaline. If the same thing happened again and again and again, every time you took a nap, eventually you’d lay in bed wide-eyed, awake and full of anticipation for your mother to burst through the door.
Turning down the celebration when returning home is a great way to combat separation anxiety. Practice by walking in and out of your house. Don’t greet your dog when you come back in. Go outside again and this time wait a little longer before you return inside. As days go by, continue stretching the amount of time that you’re gone for (10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour) and remember to ignore your pup when you walk in the door. After you’ve settled in and let the dog out for a bathroom break, feel free to love on your pup and resume your natural playtime and cuddle session.
Help your dog out; when you quit celebrating coming home, your dog will stop anxiously awaiting your arrival.
3. Toys, Treats and Thundershirts
Leaving your dog with a pet-safe puzzle toy or treat stuffed Kong is a great way to keep them occupied while you’re gone. Be sure to double check that the toy, treat or bone is not a choking hazard. Don’t leave too many treats our your dog may need a bathroom break long before you return home.
Consider purchasing a Thundershirt. Thundershirt is a great product that applies soft compression around your dog’s body to helps ease tension and stress. They’re not too pricey and they work great for dogs that experience anxiety during storms or when you leave the house.
Call the Dogtor
If your dog is still exhibiting signs of separation anxiety, consult your veterinarian to make sure there are no other health hazards at play. Your vet may even recommend a calming supplement or prescription medication.
Obedience training helps build confidence in insecure, fearful, nervous, and shy dogs.