Dog separation anxiety is quite a common problem. It is characterized by behavior where a dog begins to act strange, when the owner leaves him alone or with other family members. Different dogs have different ways to exhibit separation anxiety. Some dogs will bark endlessly while others will drool and pant. Some become depressed and extremely sulky. In some rare cases, a dog will even begin to defecate and urinate.
Anxiety is generally caused by fear. Your dog will fear that he is not safe when you leave him, which causes him to act out.You should first be encouraged that separation anxiety in dogs can be treated, quite easily. It is a fairly common condition that affects many dogs, especially if the dog owner-pet relationship is a new one. Below, we will look at dog separation anxiety in more detail and also suggest you ways in which you can eliminate it.
Differentiating dog separation anxiety from boredom
Before you make up your mind that your dog is suffering from separation-induced anxiety, you must first make sure that it is anxiety that is bothering him and not boredom. You can differentiate this by giving your dog a new toy or treat before you leave the house. If your dog seems to be fully interested in the toy or treat without realizing you left, you can conclude it’s not separation anxiety that’s affecting your dog. If your dog was suffering from separation anxiety, toys and treats will generally not appease him when you leave. Knowing the above difference between dog separation anxiety and boredom will hopefully allow you to realize that your dog’s problematic behavior is just a result of boredom and not a more problematic anxiety condition. However, if it indeed is separation anxiety that is affecting your dog, you will find several ways in which you can eliminate it, listed below.
How to help your dog in overcoming separation anxiety? Change up your routines before heading out A lot of people think that their pets become anxious when they walk out of the door. However, anxiety builds up very gradually for the average dog. You must remember that dogs are intelligent creatures. They observe your every move and can easily guess where you’re going to next. Hence, if you have a daily routine where you wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast and then read the newspaper, your dog will begin to become anxious as soon as you head into the shower, as it knows you will be shortly leaving.
Here is what you can do. Switch up the order in which you do things. As an example, you can read the paper for a few minutes after your wake up, take a shower, and then eat breakfast. Also, just before heading out, sit on your couch and turn on the television and catch a few minutes of the morning news. By rotating your schedule, your dog will feel less anxious. When you do leave, separation anxiety will still be present, although it won’t have the same level of intensity that it would otherwise have, versus carrying out a rigid or repetitive routine.
Keep your entry and exit low profile Many dog owners make a simple mistake of cajoling and heavily petting their dog before they leave. They think that the heavy attention will help their dog deal with separation anxiety. However, heavy petting before leaving will double the dog’s anxiety when you do decide to leave. Instead of petting your dog, ignore him and walk out as if it was no big deal. Don’t feel guilty you are ignoring your dog. You must remember you are trying to help him. The same rule applies when you arrive home. If you walk in and give your dog a big hug and belly rub after stepping into the house, you are conveying to him it’s OK to be a big softie. When you come in, try your best to ignore your dog for a few minutes. However, it is important you do give it some attention after a few minutes have gone by. Most cases of moderate level separation anxiety are usually fixed with this little behavior modification. Your dog will begin to think that it’s normal to be left alone, as you don’t think much of it either.
Dealing with serious cases of dog separation anxiety
A few dog owners will have dogs that have a rather serious case of dog separation anxiety. Such dogs will usually suffer a few seconds after the owner has left. The anxiety might cause them to make a ruckus that will be difficult for other people in the house to manage. In these cases, you, as the dog owner, will have to put in some effort to help your dog overcome his anxiety problems. You will need to dish out the following treatment to your fearful dog. First of all, your dog will require a good amount of your personal time if you want to fix this problem. Set aside that time. Begin by isolating your dog in a room where only you will be the other person with him. Now, leave him in the room and head out and close the door. Stay close inside and observe him. Try to see how long it takes for him to become anxious, begin drooling or barking etc. As soon as he becomes restless, walk back into the room. When you walk back into the room, don’t give him too much attention. Just stand there and wait for him to calm down. You will have to repeat this procedure, with the twist being to increase the time of separation gradually.
The progress you make will depend on the severity of anxiety separation that your dog is suffering from. It might also depend on the dog’s age, breed, and their relationship with their prior owner (among a few other factors). In some cases, the duration of separation might be a few seconds at a time while some dogs will be content for a few minutes, even in the beginning. Sometimes, treating separation anxiety in your dog might take several days. While it might be practically impossible for you to stick around on a 24/7 basis on all days, you must take measures to leave your dog with family members or doggie care if the separation anxiety problem is rather serious. Allowing your dog to cope with separation anxiety by leaving it alone will only make the problem worse over time. You will have to take one of the measures suggested above to help your dog.
A visit to an animal behaviorist Hopefully, one of the above measures will have helped your dog. However, if everything has failed, you may have no choice but to take your dog to a professional animal behaviorist who uses special techniques or even medication to eliminate the anxiety problem.