Understanding and Treating Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of different ways which can cause significant distress for your dog... leading to chewed shoes and furniture. Depending on the severity of your dog’s anxiety there are several ways to prevent the underlying causes and alleviate the symptoms.

So, what exactly is separation anxiety? This happens when a dog gets super attached to their human and is unable to adequately cope with not being in their human’s presence. This is a serious problem that needs treatment: not only does it result in property damage from the upset pup, but it’s one of the major reasons why people give up or abandon their pets!

Some causes for separation anxiety could be due to:

  • Adoption from a shelter or prior neglect
  • Change of ownership
  • Being left alone after being used to having people around
  • Changes in family dynamics including the loss or absence of a family member

What are the Signs?

This is usually a behaviour that will happen almost every time the dog is alone. It is important to ensure that there are no underlying pre-existing medical conditions. It is a good idea to consult your vet if your dog is showing any of these signs:

  • Excessive barking and howling
  • Scratching at doors and windows and trying to escape
  • Chewing or damaging furniture and shoes etc.
  • Urinating or pooping in the house even when housebroken

Treatment

  • Keep your dog occupied and associate your absence with them receiving a treat. You can use a chew toy like the KONG classic which can be filled with dog-friendly peanut butter. Only give the treat when you leave and be sure to remove it when you return home.
  • Your behaviour should remain lowkey so that you don’t excite or trigger anxiety unnecessarily. When leaving or returning to the house don't make a fuss and try to ignore them for the first few minutes (it may seem impawssible, but it will help!).
  • Certain actions like putting on your shoes or picking up your keys can trigger anxiety because your dog has learnt these as signs of you leaving. Perform these actions without actually leaving. This will need to be repeated many times reprogram your dog's behaviour.
  • Leave some of your recently worn clothes out. Your scent will soothe their anxiety.
  • Talk to your vet about over-the-counter medication or prescription medication for more acute cases.
  • Dogs need sufficient exercise and mental stimulation. Anxiety can also worsen with pent up energy and boredom. A broader variety of exercises and games will keep your dog more relaxed for longer.
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