Dog Separation Anxiety: How To Treat and Prevent It
Chase Correll | July 31 2018
In part one of this two part article, we talked about how dog separation anxiety develops and how to recognize it. In this second part, we’re going to talk about the best and most effective ways to not only treat separation anxiety, but to prevent it too. A brief reminder: the dog owner is hardly ever at fault for their pup’s development of separation anxiety. So if you and your furry friend are enduring its troubles with being alone, then try out these training tips. If your pup doesn’t suffer from separation anxiety, and you’d like to keep it that way, skip down to the preventative methods section.
Many Hands Make Light Work
In order to help your pup overcome its separation anxiety, you’re going to need some help yourself. The number one issue with separation anxiety is that your pup struggles with being left alone. So in the beginning stages of treatment, you’re going to need friends, family, or a pet sitter to help you out. Because you can’t just stay home all of the time. That’s not going to help you, and it’s certainly not going to help your pup break free from its separation issues.
While you’re at work, consider using a doggy day care or a dog sitter to keep your pup company. It’s very important to notify the caretaker of your pup about your pup’s condition. This way the caretaker will be extra vigilant, and will notify you if your pup begins to panic. While you and your pup are working through its separation anxiety, there are certain aids you can use to ease your pup’s anxiety:
1. Calming Supplements
a. Calming dog supplements with ingredients like lavender help to soothe your pup and will make it easier to treat its anxiety.
2. Ambient Noise/Soothing Music
a. Leaving a TV on or playing soothing instrumental music will help reduce the stress your pup endures while you are gone.
3. Thunder Shirt
a. This shirt acts as a tight pressure wrap that swaddles your dog, relieving anxiety and making it feel safe and secure.
Where To Start
When you begin treating your furry friend’s separation anxiety, it’s important to figure out how long your dog can go without it panicking when you’re gone. Use a camera (like the webcam on your laptop) and connect to it on your phone (with skype or facetime). Leave your house and start a stopwatch when you are far enough for your dog to think you’re gone. Watch for the common symptoms of separation anxiety, like pacing, whining, and barking, and take note of how long it takes for your pup to exhibit these symptoms: this is your threshold. Once you’ve figured out how long it takes for your pup to panic, gradually desensitize them to longer and longer absences.
Changing your pre-departure cues, or going away signals, can greatly benefit your dog’s separation anxiety treatment. Try leaving through a different door, or putting your shoes on once you are outside. Your dog is able to pick up on certain things you do before you leave, so you want to break your dog’s association of these actions with your leaving. A good start is to give your pup a calming treat before you leave. This will teach your pup to associate your leaving with positive things.
Exercise Is Key
Taking your dog for a long walk before you leave will help tire it out. A tired pup is a calm pup. Your dog will be less concerned with your departure and more concerned with food, water, and sleep.
You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello
Be sure to downplay the importance of your departures and returns. If you’re over emotional when you leave and super excited when you return, your pup will mimic these feelings. This will leave your pup to associate sadness with your absence, and risks reinforcing its separation anxiety. So calmly say goodbye when you leave, and hello when you return. You can shower your pup with affection once its calmed down.
Training your dog to be alone, while you’re at home, is a great way to prevent your pup from developing separation anxiety. Tell your furry friend to stay in a room while you go elsewhere in the house. Start with short intervals and slowly work your way up to longer periods of time. Another beneficial, preventative measure to take is to create a personal space for your pup. Give your pup a comfy dog bed, or crate train your pup, so they have a place they can go to feel secure while you’re gone. If you’re hesitant to crate train your pup, don’t be. Remember that dogs are descendants of pack animals that once slept in dens. It is their instinct to sleep in a place where they feel secure. Putting a comfy bed in a crate you train your dog in will help mimic a den; your dog will be able to use it as a place for consolation.
Remember, separation anxiety adversely impacts your dog’s health and wellness. Treating and preventing dog separation anxiety greatly benefits your pup.