How-To-Help-A-Dog-With-Separation-Anxiety

Has your dog become too clingy lately? Do neighbors complain of your dog’s constant howling and barking? Or your dog starts wandering like crazy when you get ready to step out? Don’t interpret these signs as usual dog behavior because what you might term usual are actually signs of separation anxiety. Watch your dog’s daily behavior and look for scenarios that trigger stress and panic. Remember, as a responsible dog parent, you are already creating a warm environment for your pet to settle in. Just behold that calm and read on to understand how to help a dog with separation anxiety.

Firstly, let’s understand what is separation anxiety and situations that spring up stress in dogs. When a dog is too attached to the owner, it becomes stressful for him to see you depart and that’s when separation anxiety hits. The idea of staying alone creates a sense of panic among dogs. The anxious feeling turns into destructive behavior like chewing household stuff, digging, urinating, defecating, escaping and self-injury.

The feeling of loneliness triggers separation anxiety that is a serious condition. Those mournful whimpers and stained cushions are not merely accidents but the act of stress. 

As a guardian, understand your dog rather than getting irritated. There can be multiple causes triggering separation anxiety, few of many can be loneliness, change of ownership, shelter change, schedule rotation or loss of a family member. Be watchful of your pet, look for signs of stress and practice ways of how to treat separation anxiety in dogs. To start with, identify symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs.

  • Extreme howling or barking: The moment you reach home, your dog calms down but the neighbors are full of complaints of your dog’s constant howling. If this kind of barking is persistent, your dog has separation anxiety that triggers when left alone.
  • Foul accidents: Accidental urinating or defecating in the house is fine once or twice but if your dog does that daily, especially in your absence, then it’s a sign of stress. Your soiled house shows his nervous behavior, even when housetrained. 
  • Destructive acts: Doors and windows scratched, shredded cushions, chewed up things, all these actions reflect the dog’s act of escaping in order to unite with the owner. Staying alone only adds up to this disruptive behavior.
  • Excessive salivation or pacing: If you see your house all wet in the dog’s saliva or witness your pet walk in a specific pattern for long periods, separation anxiety is to blame. Frustration hits hard but stay cool and figure out how to deal with separation anxiety in dogs.
  • Self-injury: When left alone, your dog will try to escape by digging, scratching or jumping rigorously. Such acts often result in self-injury like broken teeth, damaged paws and nails. It’s best to identify separation anxiety early and start with your dog’s training, before any of these harmful accidents occur.

Now that we have a fair understanding of the reason behind such stressful actions, let’s dig further and latch on to how to help a dog with separation anxiety.

Coming home to a mess and destructive setting can be frustrating. But it’s even more traumatic for the dog. Tackle the situation with patience and help resolve the pet’s underlying anxiety. Walk, talk and train. Teach him to rest and enjoy when left alone. Before commencing proper training, consult a vet and rule out any kind of medical possibilities. If drugs, health conditions or hormonal imbalance are not to blame, it’s time to practice homely treatment. Keep it slow, calm and natural. After all, it’s your pet partner; who loves it more, if not you!

When curating techniques for treating separation anxiety in dogs, differentiate the condition first - is it mild or severe? Start the treatment based on the seriousness of the condition. In case of mild problems, follow standard strategies to help your dog deal with separation anxiety.

  • Low-key greetings and goodbyes: Dogs are called man's best companions for a reason. Warm hugs when happy, puppy faces on departure, tail wagging when excited, a dog makes us feel every emotion and how. It's important that you, as their pet parent, keep your outgoings and homecomings lowkey. Battle attachment with a solid stay program and encourage independence.
  • Natural calming supplements: A treat is never a bad idea. Give your dog over-the-counter natural supplements that keep them calm in your absence. Besides, puzzle toys stuffed with edible content are also great treats for dogs to keep them engaged when alone.
  • Your fragrance matters: Leave your worn clothes near the dog or casually put them at different corners of the house. Inhaling the owner's fragrance time and again makes the dog feel safe and reduces the fear of loneliness.

Dealing with minor separation anxiety in dogs is the first step towards making them stay composed when left alone. These are simple tricks to help combat stress panic. On the flip side, severe separation anxiety requires much training and direct attention without any delays. Methods to combat severe stress take longer than usual. Alongside positive reinforcement, follow three methods to encourage self-reliance and sufficiency.

  • Crate training: Crate is a great tool to help dogs combat separation anxiety. Instead of forcing them to stay in, make it a safe and relaxed place for your pup. How? Teach him to feel comfortable and how interesting things like chewing toys or food puzzle toys can be done in his crate. Ease your dog into it. Watch his behavior and gradually leave him in the crate to enjoy being alone.
  • Counter-conditioning: If your dog starts panicking when you are about to leave, plan out short departures. Start by leaving for a short time period and gradually increase the time. If your dog is conditioned to stress out within seconds, countering him with value treats as rewards. This way, he will look forward to your departure as a mode of getting special treats.
  • Desensitization: Raising a physically and mentally healthy dog takes proper training and teaching. If your departure routines make your dog stressful, destress the situation by altering these routines. For instance, wear your coat and sit back on the sofa. Practice out-of-sight exercises through the bedroom door and later by the exit door. Remember, safe gradual absences and departures are the keys to treating separation anxiety in dogs.
  • Exercise and train: Start your day by taking your pawfect partners for a walk. Play with them, make them do activities when outside. At home, engage in playful, cognitive games and housebreaking sessions. The objective is to tire them before it's time for you to leave. A tired and exhausted dog is more likely to relax and rest when left alone.

Separation Anxiety can be Resolved!

When preparing on how to help a dog with separation anxiety, play it cool throughout. Make sure not to exhibit anxious behavior in front of your dog. Stressful responses towards a dog only build up to the distress he feels. Never punish or force-crate him in the name of formal training. Be polite, patient and seek professional consultation for positive training methods.

- Shefali