How To Deal With Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a very common disorder; according to veterinary behavioral specialists, 20 to 40 percent of the dogs they treat suffer from some form of separation anxiety. There are many different ways to address separation anxiety, from weighted blankets for dogs to calming music. While these tools are helpful, you can resolve your dog's anxiety by training him to be calm and even enjoy being left alone.
What Does Separation Anxiety In Dogs Look Like?
Separation anxiety in dogs manifests in different ways. Common symptoms include destructive behaviors like urinating and defecating even after house-training, as well as chewing and digging. Many dogs with separation anxiety bark and howl when left alone, and also attempt to escape by chewing through doors or windows. Some dogs also pace in circles. All of these symptoms occur when a guardian isn't present. If a dog performs these behaviors in the presence of a guardian, they probably aren't caused by separation anxiety. However, these behaviors are more easily remedied. If you observe your dog barking and howling in your presence, for example, you can train her with anti-barking devices. But how can you train your pup if they only act out when you're not there?
Treating Separation Anxiety In Dogs
A pup with mild separation anxiety can be trained to deal with your absence better with a treat given around the time you leave the house. A puzzle toy stuffed with food is ideal, as it will keep your pup occupied for 20 to 30 minutes. Once you arrive, remove these toys so your dog will associate the treats with times when he's left home alone. However, this approach only works for minor cases of separation anxiety, as some dogs refuse to eat when separated from their guardians.
For moderate to severe separation anxiety, it's best to train your dog to be left alone by beginning with short separations that don't cause anxiety. Then you can gradually increase the duration of your separation. While you're training your dog to be calm, it's also a good idea to leave your dog in a doggie daycare facility, or ask a friend to dogsit for you, just to help your pup cope in the short term. You can also leave your dog with clothes that smell like you.
To help your dog deal with separation anxiety, it's important that you don't make a huge fuss out of arrivals and departures. If your dog is excitedly greeting you, ignore him for a few minutes, then pet them calmly. Whatever you do, don't punish your dog for acting out while you're away, as this will only make her more anxious and aggravate the problem. Be patient with your pup; desensitizing your dog to your absence will take many weeks of training. And if you need help dealing with your dog's issues, you can always consult a professional animal behaviorist.