Separation anxiety is a common issue that can affect all types of dogs, from rescue pets to purebreds.
While your dog may act fairly well behaved while you are around, the first signs of separation anxiety happen when you leave the house. You may return to find things chewed apart, scratches at the doors and windows, accidents even if your dog is potty trained, or you might hear them howling and barking to excessive levels.
It’s a concerning behavior that can leave you feeling guilty about having to leave to do normal human activities like working and running errands. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help relieve your dog’s stress and anxiety:
1.Train Them Gradually
Many dogs can overcome separation anxiety with training. Starting slow is the key to this type of training, and this method can also be used to help your dog overcome anxieties about riding in the car. Firstly, don’t make a big deal about saying goodbye to your dog when getting ready to leave your home.
To start, tell them to “stay” and use a side door to exit the home for 5-10 minutes. When you return, continue to act normally or ignore your dog for the first 10 minutes. Repeat this process multiple times as needed, and gradually increase the amount of time you leave the house.
2.Change Up Your Departure Routine
Dogs will learn the cues that you are leaving and they can start to become anxious as soon as they notice you performing those cues. Your pet may recognize that putting on your shoes and coat, and grabbing your keys means they will be left alone soon.
Try changing this routine by putting on your shoes and then sitting on the couch to watch TV for the next 15 minutes. Grab your keys long before you leave the house. And once again, don’t accentuate your leaving with long goodbyes to your dog.
3.Exercise Your Pup
While some dogs enjoy being lazy lumps that nap all day, others were bred for a working environment and are happiest when they are active. Taking your dog for regular, daily walks or letting them run around a yard is an excellent way to burn off that excess energy. Doing so just before you leave the house for your outing can help relax your dog and ward off separation anxiety. If you decide to exercise your pet on a daily basis, remember that they will come to expect this and it may cause them stress when their routine is disrupted and the exercise sessions stop.
4.Play Music & Audiobooks
In recent years, new studies have shown that playing music or audiobooks for dogs has a calming effect – though, you don’t want to turn on some heavy metal and leave the house. Only certain genres of music are found to be helpful, and as you may have guessed, these include classical music, soft rock, and reggae music. However, just like people, individual dogs will have their own specific preferences. Audiobooks are especially good for those dogs who are super used to being around people because they continue to hear a familiar human sound after you leave the house.
5.Try CBD Treats
While prescription medications for pets with anxiety have been around for a long time, CBD pet products are a newer, natural way to help promote calming feelings in dogs. Since their introduction, research has been conducted that shows that dogs, like humans, have an endocannabinoid system. This means that their bodies naturally produce substances found in cannabis that aid in the functions of sleep, mood, and appetite. When CBD products are introduced to the body, they bind with the receptors and produce calm feelings. CBD treats and other products are excellent for reducing anxiety and they work fairly quickly.
6.Consider The Pack Mentality
Dogs have the instinct to live in packs, just like their wolf ancestors. You are the pack leader, and when you leave, they may fear for their survival or safety. Adopting another dog as a buddy may help relieve their anxieties from being left alone. Though, before you adopt you will want to see if another dog helps first. Borrow a calm, well-behaved dog that has no history of separation anxiety from a friend and leave them home alone together. If you don’t know anyone with a dog, you could consider fostering one temporarily.
If all else fails, you may want to consider talking to a pet behavioral specialist to find what will work best for your dog’s specific situation. Conquering separation anxiety in dogs is hard work and there is no easy fix. Remember that they are not behaving this way out of spite and punishing them will likely not be helpful. You can also talk to your vet to rule out any medical problems and for advice about prescription medications.
Image 1: Nikola Johnny Mirkovic
Image 2: Isabela Kronemberger
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About the author
Aaron Smith is a writer and copy strategist for several companies and non-profits. He often covers topics important to pet owners, and is a dedicated dog dad to his three pups: Buddy, Roxy, and Kaya.