Owning a puppy or dog can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Though we might want to be, we can’t always be there for them, and 10% of the time, this causes separation anxiety in dogs.
Whether puppy or full-grown pooch, it doesn’t take long before an unbreakable bond forms between you and your canine family member. Dogs aren’t so different from us, in the sense that they “feel” and for some dogs, being separated from their owner–for even just a moment, can be too much to bear.
Sadly, separation anxiety in dogs is the number two reason some owners choose to give their dogs up or even euthanize them!
Fido needs your patience and understanding, just as any family member would. Here’s some friendly and useful advice from one dog lover to another.
How to Cure Dogs with Separation Anxiety
Why Your Pooch Panics
Dogs with separation anxiety behave in much the same way as a distressed human would (pooping and scratching aside). Theories on why this is so abound, but when it comes down to it–they simply miss being around you and dread the loneliness that takes over once you leave for work in the morning.
Of course, most dogs seem to understand that you’ll soon be back to smother them with affection. There’s always a trigger, that sets off anxiety in dogs and if you identify it early, you can take steps to deal with it.
- Over reliance: Some dogs (especially golden retrievers) become over reliant on their family and can’t handle being left alone.
- Change in scenery: Moving house can cause (separation anxiety in dogs#2).
- Your dog’s history: Dogs rescued from animal shelters often come with a history of abuse or abandonment.
- Recent trauma: If your dog recently experienced a traumatic event while left alone (fire, flood, lightening) anxiety could develop.
- Change in routine: Dogs like consistency, and any change, such as work hours, or a family member leaving home, can cause them untold distress.
It’s likely that you’ll find the cause of your pet’s distress on this list. If you don’t, don’t worry, you can still help her to overcome it anyway.
How to Identify Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Separation anxiety in dogs manifests in several ways, some of which you might be annoyed by. Don’t punish your pooch whatever you do, he can’t help it, he’s panic-stricken and afraid. He needs your help, not your rage.
Dogs with separation anxiety tend to:
- Leave nasty smelling gifts on your nice clean floor
- Bark excessively before and after you leave
- Scratch obsessively at windows and doors
- Chew furniture
- Whine and follow you around before you leave the house
- Howl and disturb the neighbours
- Stop eating, ignoring their food
- Hurt themselves in their efforts to get to you
If your dog is displaying these behaviours, remember, he is NOT misbehaving. He needs your love and affection, and for you to help him overcome his separation anxiety.
How to Cure Separation Anxiety in Dogs
If you punish your dog for the above offences, you won’t cure the problem–you’ll exacerbate it and anyway, it isn’t a crime to miss you when you leave for work or retire for the night.
Follow these tips I’ve laid out below to help Fido overcome his separation anxiety.
1) Be the pack leader
I believe this is the pre-requisite to all effective dog and puppy training. Show your dog who is boss but don’t overdo it. Teach him to obey commands like “sit”, “heel”, “give me your paw” etc, and in time, he’ll view you as a leader and begin to respect your wishes.
As one of your wishes is to leave the house, this helps a lot!
2) Ignore him for a while
This might seem harsh, (and heartbreaking) but ignoring your pooch ten minutes before you leave the house, and ten minutes after you arrive home, will gradually help to ease his separation anxiety.
As dog lovers, we unknowingly reward barking, whining and pining by smothering our dogs. Ignoring them will eventually put an end to this behaviour and help your dog become more independent.
Dogs with anxiety panic when they notice certain routines or behaviours. They might react to time, behaviours like putting on your coat, having breakfast or opening the door.
On weekends or days when you stay indoors, you have the perfect opportunity to desensitize your doggy to these cues. Be vigilant, watch for the signs and take note of which cues cause your dog to panic. Now, repeat all behaviours over and over–but don’t leave the house, or your dog, alone.
Eventually, the habit will stop. Then he won’t panic when he sees you open the door or put on your coat.
4) Leave him with your scent
Leave him an item with your scent on it. Old clothing or a sock is fine just as long as it smells of you. If he can’t have you, well at least he’s got your sock. Every little helps.
5) Mental and physical stimulation
A happy dog is a mentally stable dog. Ensure your dog gets plenty of physical and mental exercise while you’re around.
If you think your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, be patient. Separation anxiety in dogs can be cured, but it’s up to you in the early stages to provide the support your four-legged friend needs.
With a little love and loyalty on your part, and the help of these tips, your floors, furniture and most importantly, your dog, will be spared any lasting damage from this uncomfortable condition.
Freddy and I hope we have answered your question ‘how to cure separation anxiety?’
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You’ll be so glad you made the effort, and you’ll have a much better friend.