During the pandemic, most people spent an increased amount of time at home. But, of course, as dog owners, being with our pups 24/7 was a lot of fun!
However, as many of us resume our normal daily activities, we notice our dogs aren't as comfortable with our absence as they used to be. They may seem anxious, bark or whine excessively, chew things up, or even try to escape. This condition is called canine separation anxiety, and over sixty percent of dog owners believe their pooch shows signs of it.
Is your dog displaying signs of anxiety when you leave home? If so, you'll want to keep reading as we share how to help a dog with separation anxiety!
1. Take Your Dog on Plenty of Walks
Most often, increased levels of physical and mental activity help dogs who are suffering from mild separation anxiety. Thus, taking your pup for plenty of walks throughout the day, especially before leaving the house, is one of the best things you can do to ease canine anxiety disorder. The difference is incredible.
Of course, you should also find challenging games and activities that will give your dog a mental workout. For example, you can purchase some puzzle toys that make your canine work for their treats.
Another great alternative is practicing tricks and having training sessions before leaving home. Not only will this wear out your dog, but it will help them become better behaved!
2. Pretend it's No Big Deal
Separation anxiety in dogs can be stressful on owners, but you shouldn't let your dog know how you're feeling by the way you communicate with them.
Thus, it's crucial to avoid making a fuss over your dog before leaving or returning, as this would show them that these events are a big deal. Instead, go about your business as usual and avoid giving them attention or saying goodbye when leaving the house.
If you have trouble leaving the house without saying goodbye to your four-legged friend, spend some time giving them affection about fifteen minutes before you go. And remember that you won't hurt your dog's feelings if you don't say goodbye! This display is mostly for you!
3. Stay Calm
As mentioned, your dog can pick up on your feelings, especially when you act nervous. That's why you must remain calm before you leave home.
You can let your dog know that everything is fine by displaying a calm, firm, and confident attitude.
4. Start Small
Changing your dog's perception of what it means to be alone takes time and consistent training. However, it would help if you didn't dive right in by leaving them alone all day. Instead, start small and limit your time apart until your dog feels comfortable.
For example, if your dog has severe anxiety, you can leave them alone in the room for a couple of minutes at a time. Then, keep them inside while you work in the yard.
Later, you can move on to leaving your property for a couple of minutes, perhaps taking a walk to get the mail or around the block. Eventually, you can extend the time until you can be apart for up to a few hours!
Of course, the key to successful behavior modification is keeping them from getting stressed. So don't advance your training unless they are calm during each stage and return home before they begin panicking!
Another important part of easing separation anxiety is desensitizing their stress triggers, such as putting on your shoes or grabbing your keys. Do this by putting on your shoes and holding your keys a few times a day without going outside.
5. Keep them Entertained
Unless your dog has severe anxiety, giving them an interactive toy is a great way to keep them occupied. And, it will help them associate your absence with something they enjoy.
However, dogs with severe separation anxiety may become triggered by these toys if you give them the same one every time you leave. Thus, you may want to look for other calming techniques, such as putting on audiobooks or soft music for your dog to hear while you're gone.
6. Talk to Your Vet
Although the typical treatment for dog separation anxiety is behavior modification, veterinarians may prescribe medication if:
- Dogs injure themselves due to anxiety
- Dogs hurt other animals in the home
- Separation anxiety is jeopardizing their quality of life or the possibility of remaining in the home
However, even with the help of dog separation anxiety medication, owners must also work hard in their training regimen. It's not a cure for the problem but rather makes teaching their pup not to be afraid possible by reducing anxiety.
Anxiolytic drugs are a long-term option, taking about a month or more to take effect. Moreover, they require annual check-ups and blood work.
Yet, the more common choice is event-specific medications you can give your dog before a trigger. These prevent your dog from panicking, allowing training sessions to have a more positive effect.
Of course, some owners opt for natural products, so it's important to learn what to look for by asking your vet.
7. Enlist the Help of a Professional
If your efforts to help your dog prove unsuccessful, don't give up! Instead, contact a professional dog trainer who can help. These individuals understand the way your dog's mind works and the methods that will help modify their behavior.
Use These Tips to Reduce Canine Separation Anxiety
Developing a good routine is key if your dog has canine separation anxiety. Make sure you leave time for walks, training, and other activities mentioned in this post.
Yet, most importantly, remember that your dog needs your help more than ever. So, don't throw in the towel! Instead, seek the help of trainers and veterinarians if your training efforts aren't giving you the results you desire.
Of course, you'll want to bookmark this page so you can refer to it later! And, if you'd like more great advice on pet care, browse more content on our blog!