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Separation anxiety in dogs

Help your pup overcome their stress

Dogs can display a strong need for attention, as anyone who's had their bathroom privacy interrupted by a furry friend can confirm. However, when your canine companion can't bear to be alone without exhibiting signs of distress, they may have moved beyond mere neediness and into the realm of separation anxiety. This condition is prevalent in both dogs and cats, and addressing it can be a bit of a challenge.

Symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs‍

Separation anxiety can exert a significant toll on dogs, to the extent that it can lead to self-harm or damage to your property. If you suspect your dog is grappling with separation anxiety, be on the lookout for these indicators:

1. Vocalization such as howling, barking, or crying when you're not present.

2. Displays of nervousness as you get ready to depart.

3. Inappropriate elimination inside the house.

4. Destructive behaviour when left alone, such as shredding pillows or damaging toys.

How to help your dog with separation anxiety

Luckily, separation anxiety in dogs is usually manageable — but, it may take some time to get under control. If you can, start slow by only leaving your pet alone for short periods. Dogs need time to learn that their parents only leave them temporarily. Here are some other ways to ease your pet’s worry, including:

  • Get puzzles or toys that dispense treats to keep your pet occupied. If you don’t want to buy anything new, hide vet-approved, food-stuffed toys around the house. Talk to your vet about what items are safe to leave your pup with when you’re not around.

  • Create a relaxing environment for your dog by leaving an audiobook or music on so that the house isn’t silent. Don’t leave the television on, though, as it could be overstimulating.

  • Use pet-sitting or dog-walking services to get your pet out of the house (but make sure they’re comfortable with their walker).

  • Consider daycare for your dog (socializing may have a positive effect on them).

  • Practice leaving your dog (if only for a couple of minutes at first). Prepare to go, say goodbye and stand outside of the door — then come back inside. Keep doing this until your pup feels more comfortable, and try to extend the amount of time you leave each time.

  • Remain quiet during your hellos and goodbyes. Ignoring your dog for 15 to 30 minutes before leaving or after arriving home can help keep them calm.

  • For shorter amounts of time away from home, it may be beneficial to put your dog in their crate (if they’re already comfortable with it). As natural den animals, dogs sometimes feel safer in their own space.

  • Avoid leaving your pet in areas with lots of windows or doors, as this stimulation could make them more anxious.

  • Meet your dog’s basic needs. Then, make sure they have enough exercise, attention and mental stimulation (for example, sniff walks, where you take your dog to a new area) before you leave.

Here’s what not to do when managing your dog’s separation anxiety:

Avoid punishing your dog as it can exacerbate anxiety. Methods like yelling, using water sprays, or employing shock collars often worsen the situation.

Relying solely on medication may not provide a complete solution. It's advisable to consult your veterinarian about seeking guidance from a veterinary behaviorist for treating this condition.

Our top recommendation for helping your dog overcome separation anxiety is to consult your veterinarian. They can provide valuable insights and referrals to work with a veterinary behaviorist. With time, practice, and professional guidance, your dog can gain confidence during periods of solitude.

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