Does your pooch get nervous when they see you getting ready to leave the house? Do they get ridiculously excited when they see you come home? Have you come home to destroyed belongings and furniture?
It could be that your furry friend is suffering from separation anxiety, something that is unfortunately all too common as we start to head back to the office.
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety happens when a dog becomes unhealthily attached to their owner to the point that they get super-stressed when left alone. It's more than a little whining when you leave or a bit of mischief while you’re out. It's a serious condition and often one of the main reasons pet parents get frustrated with their dogs and give them up. But there are plenty of things you can do to help your pooch if they are suffering from separation anxiety.
First, it’s important to understand what exactly it is that is making your dog to act and feel this way. It could be many things, e.g.:
- Being left alone when they are used to being with people
- A new home/pet parent
- Change in family routine or schedule
- Loss of a family member
What are the Signs?
A dog who suffers from separation anxiety shows a lot of stress when they are alone. They might:
- Howl, bark, or whine to excess
- Have indoor "accidents" even though they have been house trained
- Chew things up, dig holes, scratch at windows and doors
- Drool, pant, or salivate way more than usual
- Pace, often in an obsessive pattern
- Try to escape
They likely won't do any of these things to an extreme whilst you’re around. A normal dog might do some of these things once in a while, but one with separation anxiety will do them almost all the time.
How to Treat It
First, as always, have a conversation with your vet. This will enable you to rule out any potential medical problems which may be causing their behaviour, for example, accidents in the home may be caused by an infection, meaning your pooch may simply have been unable to control themselves. Aside from that, it may also be down to any medication they take or indeed incomplete house training on your part.
If the Problem Is Mild …
- Give your dog a special treat each time you leave (like our delicious salmon twirls or chicken treats). Only give them this treat when you're leaving, meaning they’ll start to make some form of positive interaction and association with you leaving and realise that good things can happen when you’re not there.
- Make your comings and goings low-key without a lot of greeting. Ignore your pup for the first few minutes after you get home.
- Leave some recently worn clothes out that smell like you.
- Consider giving your pet over-the-counter natural calming supplements – if you have concerns about using these, please ensure you speak with your vet.
If the Problem Is More Serious …
Unfortunately, not even our delicious treats will distract a dog who is suffering from severe anxiety. You'll need to slowly get them used to your absence.
They may start to get nervous when they see signs you're about to leave, like putting on your shoes or picking up your keys. So do those things, but then don't leave. Put on your shoes and then sit down. Pick up your keys and watch TV. Do this over and over many times a day, which will help your dog disassociate these things with you leaving.
When your dog starts to feel less anxious about that, you can slowly start to disappear. First just go on the other side of the door for a few minutes. Slowly increase the amount of time you're gone. As they get more used to this, begin to increase the amount of time you're gone. Make sure your dog is relaxed before you leave.
For All Dogs...
Make sure your pet gets lots of exercise every day. A tired, happy dog will be less stressed when you leave. It's also key that you challenge your pet's mind. Play training games and fetch. Use interactive puzzles. Work their mind as well as their body. That will keep them busy, happy, and too tired to be anxious while you're gone.