One of the most common challenges I have been seeing lately on pet parent and dog mom forums recently has been dogs with separation anxiety. This can manifest in a number of symptoms including barking, whining, crying, chewing furniture, urinating inside (when they are 100% potty trained), escape attempts, and being in general destructive. Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset when they are separated from their guardians. Some dogs are easily agitated when they see their humans simply getting ready to leave and others only become anxious when their guardians depart through the front door. Others try to even prevent their people from leaving altogether. And then when their guardians return home the dogs act as if it has been years since they have seen their people.
If this sounds like your dog then he might be suffering from some form of separation anxiety. When treating separation anxiety the goal is to target the underlying anxiety by teaching your dog to enjoy or at the very least tolerate being left alone. There are a number of techniques and ways in which you can help combat this common challenge and often it works best when you layer a number of different treatments together. By this I mean don’t just toss your dog a few treats while you are on your way out the door, but ultimately help set up your dog for success by also outfitting him with a thunder shirt (special wraps designed to make your dog feel like he is in a perpetual hug) and even playing calming music on the radio while you are gone. In this way he is more likely to be calm during departures and better able cope while you are away. Read on for more suggestions on how to treat mild and even more severe separation anxiety.
How to treat mild separation anxiety
- Start out by taking small and short leaves from the house where it will cause little anxiety in your dog. This will help accustom him to the fact that you will be coming and going from the house.
- Don’t make a big deal out of departures and arrivals by talking in soothing or excited tones to your dog. Instead, try ignoring your dog for the first few minutes when you get home. This will give her a moment to calm down and then you’ll be able to pet her without all the drama. It helps teach her that being gone is not the worst thing in the world.
- Leave your dog with dirty clothes that smell like you. As long as you don’t have a dog that likes to rip things to shreds while you are gone clothes or a blanket that smells like you can help make them feel secure and safe.
- Paw balm with lavender essential oil, like Watson’s Pawesome Paw Balm, can help greatly reduce separation anxiety in dogs when paired with one or two other techniques. Lavender has a natural calming effect and a paw massage is great way to relax your furry friend before you depart.
- Try out a thunder shirt. These special shirts are designed to make your dog feel like he is in a perpetual hug by hitting certain pressure points. For dogs with mild separation anxiety a thunder shirt paired with one or two other techniques can work wonders in making them feel safe and keep them calm while you are gone.
How to handle more severe separation anxiety
Use any number of the techniques listed above paired with desensitization training. Teach your dog the sit, down, and stay commands using positive reinforcement. This training will help your dog learn that they can be calm and happy in one place while you go to another room.
Also try creating a safe space to that is a cue letting your dog know that it is his space to feel safe and calm. A safe space should include:
- A loosely confined space such as a room with a window and toys for ample fun times to be had.
- Have her favorite toys for distraction.
- Have dirty laundry that smells like you to provide a calming cue for your dog.
It takes time
Remember that it will take some time for your dog to unlearn the panic response at departure times and you’ll have to be patient. If your dog expresses extremely severe separation anxiety to the point where he could potentially hurt himself or any of the above techniques aren’t working then consult a professional animal behavior specialist. They are trained to help families and their dogs get over the separation anxiety hurdle together.
**The Woof Warehouse is not a paid sponsor of companies or products mentioned in this blog post.**