Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Okay. Admittedly we’re not experts in dog behaviour – but we do have a lot of people visiting this site that could benefit from some info on this serious and troubling problem of separation anxiety in dogs. Since we care a lot about our visitors and all doggies, we looked around to find out what many say could be helpful ideas and present them here.
If your dog makes an uncharacteristically large amount of noise, acts destructively and/or is very tense while you are away, you could be dealing with this issue. Here’s ten of the best tips we could find that may provide a starting point for you to look for more specific information. Of course it’s always a good idea in these serious matters to consult with a dog care professional. So here’s the list – We hope it can be of some help.
1. Downplay Arrivals and Departures
Hellos and goodbyes are a very human thing. There is great satisfaction, after going through an entire day of lukewarm reactions from other people, to arrive to an extremely joyous emotional and physical reaction from your canine companion. It’s lovely to get a whole heap of loving when leaving as well. Unfortunately this kind of clear satisfying end and start events makes the time you are away seem suddenly empty by contrast.
The somewhat counter-intuitive idea here is to not say hello and goodbye to your doggie, as hard as this might be (ultimately we’re probably more resistant to training than our doggies). Doing other things for a while just before leaving and just after arriving, before you start interacting with your dog, may make the transition seem less dramatic to a sensitive pet.
Photo: Scott King
2. Use Toys To Keep Your Doggie Busy
Some say that boredom can increase the experience of anxiety. Keep your doggie entertained by leaving as many engaging items as possible out and available. If chewing precious household objects is an issue you might leave out a lot of chew toys. Some people use toys with treats inside, but it would be best if it takes a long time to get the treats out. You know best what your doggie finds interesting for long periods, and plenty of those type of things may help her mind stay occupied instead of dwelling on missing you.
3. Your Clothing Can Be A Comfort
An old t-shirt or used towel may work wonders in reducing separation anxiety in dogs by comforting your doggie with your scent while you are gone. Scents mean a lot more to dogs than they do to humans, so we cannot overestimate how much help this could be. A blanket that you’ve slept with might serve to accomplish this as well.
4. Exercise May Reduce Separation Anxiety In Dogs
The theory is that an excess of pent up energy in your dog can increase the amount of anxiety experienced during separation. This is because, while anxiety is an emotion, it can be magnified by physical imbalances or discomforts.
A pleasant way to optimize the physical calmness level of your pet is to take a longish brisk walk followed by water and food. All this is to create a peaceful state to minimize the effects of separation.
5. Let The Television or Radio Keep Your Doggie Company
If your doggie has shown interest in watching something on a television set you might consider leaving something playing while you are gone. Perhaps a channel with a lot of animals on it would provide interesting movements for your pet to watch. Humans definitely use audio with talking or music, and video as distractions, and it may work for your doggie too. You may find a playlist on YouTube that may be of particular interest. With audio, try nature sounds, different types of music, and perhaps something with a lot of talking.
6. Use Automatic Treat Dispensing Devices
If you have a treat dispensing toy you might try giving it to your doggie every day right as you are leaving. With any luck this may help make your leaving an event that he looks forward to for this reason, or at least ease the transition. There are also food dispensing devices that are timed or remote controlled – some even have two way video communication with your doggie, although I’m not sure if this will make the problem better or worse.
7. Getting A Second Dog Could Help
This action could go either way. You might want to ask your vet whether she thinks this is a viable solution for your particular doggie. It is important to consider your own pet’s personality and the breed, size, temperament, gender, age, etc. of the candidate dog for the position of companion.
Obviously you don’t want to end up with the two dogs fighting, or with a second dog that has bigger anxieties than the first, since this will increase the anxiety for your original pet and for yourself (epic fail.)
8. Become More Knowledgeable About Dog Behaviour
Some say that there are ways to reduce separation anxiety in dogs by providing more clear human leadership.The theory is that if, through your routine behaviour while with your doggie, she gets the idea that she is the pack leader, then it will be unsettling when you, the follower, leave without permission. If, on the other hand (the other paw?), your doggie has the understanding that you are the leader, then it makes perfect sense that you can leave whenever you like. If the doggie feels she is the leader then while you are away she is responsible for you but cannot watch out for you and this causes mental anguish.
Needless to say, there could be a lot we are not clear on when it comes to the internal mental life of our doggies. So we may want to do some research and become more educated about the topic. Perhaps a little more understanding could go a long way in turning things around.
9. A Psychologist May Shrink The Problem Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
You may or may not have heard of dog psychologists, but they do exist. It is up to you to judge whether the problem is serious enough to take this route. If it works it may improve life for both you and your doggie. If you are unsure of who might be reliable in this area you may want to try asking your veterinarian for a recommendation.
10. Limit The Time Your Doggie Is Alone
Life does not always allow us to spend as much time as we would like with our doggies. They certainly deserve as much of our attention as we can give, but in the end we simply do our best. Having said this, there is a general consensus that since dogs are essentially pack animals we should put some limit on how much time they are alone. Many say that not going beyond 4 to 6 hours is best and that going beyond 8 hours is highly disapproved of. If leaving a dog alone for even smaller amounts of time has become difficult some people, where practical, have opted to take their doggie with them for all or part of the time, and others have had trusted people help by coming in for visits to break up the alone time.
Some Or All
Separation anxiety in dogs may cause anxiety in humans! When your precious doggie is in distress it can be very troubling. You may want to try particular items in this list that you think would suit your furry family member – or you may want to use a blanket approach and try a bunch of them together to achieve the maximum effectiveness. Our hearts go out to you if you have this problem and we wish you the best of luck in solving it.
If you have heard of anything else that is not on the list, or have some experiences of your own, please leave comments for the benefit of other readers. Thanks.
Disclaimer: This information is gathered from general unverified internet sources for the convenience of readers and is not intended as expert advice or guidance, but as a starting point for further research. Consult a veterinarian for guidance in all pet related matters.
You may also want to consult a professional animal behavior specialist for assistance in resolving your dog’s issues.