We all know that our canine companions love us, but sometimes, they can have a hard time being left alone. Here are some ways that you can tell if your dog has separation anxiety and tips to manage it!
It’s that time of year again, and kids everywhere are suffering from the back-to-school blues. But, it isn’t only kids who are sad about leaving home and heading back to school. Pets can become accustomed to a lively and full house over the summer months and might experience symptoms of separation anxiety when they suddenly find themselves home alone all day long.
The signs of separation anxiety
The separation anxiety spectrum is large. Some dogs’ symptoms might be barely noticeable, while other dogs’ symptoms are much more severe. Does your dog have separation anxiety? Here are some of the signs:
- Following you around the house
- Nervously clinging to you or pacing while you prepare to leave
- Exuberant welcoming behavior when you return home
- Excessive barking, whining or howling
- Destructive behavior
- Self-injury in an attempt to escape
- Excessive salivation
- Inappropriate urination or defecation
Treating separation anxiety
Treating separation anxiety can be difficult and time-consuming. For mild cases, try:
- Making departures and arrivals as calm and uneventful as possible
- Keeping your pet occupied with a treat puzzle or peanut-butter-filled Kong toy
- Using pheromones and calming supplements
- Increasing your pup’s daily exercise
- Taking your dog to doggie daycare
- Hiring a pet sitter to break up the day with regular walks
More severe cases of separation anxiety should be treated with the help of a complete veterinary health care team, including a certified animal trainer or behaviorist, and may include anti-anxiety medications and a behavior modification plan. Modifying your pet’s behavior will involve:
Pre-departure cues — When you prepare to leave the house, you probably repeat some of the same behaviors, like grabbing your keys and picking up your purse or wallet. Your dog learns that these behaviors lead to your departure, so the behaviors themselves can trigger anxiety. Instead, try grabbing your keys and then get settled on the couch with a book or movie.
Graduated absences — This modification requires your dog to understand the “stay” command and involves first leaving your dog for brief periods in another room and rewarding when he stays. Gradually increase the time out of your dog’s sight, and eventually move to an exterior door. Slowly build your way up to longer absences, and if your dog shows signs of anxiety at any point, go back to shorter absences and try again.
Need help managing your dog’s separation anxiety? Call our office.