Does your dog bark or howl excessively when you leave? Do they chew and scratch up furniture while you’re gone? If these behaviors coincide with constant potty accidents, and intense panting and salivation, you might be facing separation anxiety. Whether caused by past trauma, learned behaviors or inexperience, separation anxiety can happen out of nowhere. This issue should not be taken lightly or ignored, as your dog could easily hurt themselves or others while you’re away. Following up our post on dog anxiety, we wanted to go a little further to help those puppies and puppy parents facing this more serious issue. Here’s 9 tips for coping with canine separation anxiety.
This one applies to most forms of anxiety in dogs. While exercise should be a part of every dog’s daily routine, it’s particularly useful when dealing with pups with anxiety—especially larger dogs. It’s important your dog has time to wind down between the end of their exercise and when you plan to leave the house (60 mins should be sufficient). Otherwise, exercise can have the opposite effect of increasing your dog’s energy levels, making them more prone to bouts of anxiety.
Many pet owners make a big ceremony of leaving and going. It makes total sense of course, we miss our pups when we’re gone, so we say our goodbyes when we leave and celebrate when we return. But this pattern can have a negative effect on dogs prone to separation anxiety. It communicates to your pup that leaving is a big deal, and so they react in kind. Instead, behave as if coming and going is nothing special—make no fuss when you leave, and do not immediately greet your pup when you return.
If like most pet owners you find it hard not saying goodbye when leaving, simply give your pooch an extra special goodbye an hour or so before you actually leave instead.
Practice Time Apart
If your pup struggles with time apart, start them off small. Begin by leaving them alone for 5 minutes, then gradually build up to something like 20 or 30 minutes. Continue increasing the time in this fashion until they can withstand an entire workday alone. It will take some patience on your part—but you can do it!
There are several herbal remedies said to help soothe dogs suffering from separation anxiety—including German chamomile, Kava Kava, yellow jasmine and passion flower. However, before trying any such holistic options, we recommend consulting your vet. For more info on herbal solutions to separation anxiety, click here.
Create a Safe Space
Whether using a crate or a quiet room, a safe space can work wonders for pets with separation anxiety. The space should be comfortable, calm, and filled with your pup’s favorite things—like toys and their preferred bedding. By creating a soothing environment that’s familiar to your pup, you can help relieve some of the anxiety they feel when you leave.
Leave a Trace of Yourself Behind
Familiar settings go a long way toward comforting anxious pets. Including an item that carries your scent—a toy, a blanket, an article of clothing—is a smart way to make things even more familiar for your pooch.
Don’t Punish Your Dog
Think about it: Your pup isn’t intentionally disobeying, they’re stressed, and trying to find ways to cope with that stress. Punishing them will not help the situation, and you might emotionally harm your dog in the process.
Don’t Just Leave the TV On
While dog-specific music can alleviate the symptoms of dog anxiety, leaving the TV on every time you leave the house is not a solution to separation anxiety. At best, it’s a band aid that deals with the symptoms while ignoring the underlying causes. If you’ve trained your pup to associate the TV or radio with your presence, then continue to use this approach in conjunction with other methods. But this should not be your primary way of dealing with your dog’s separation anxiety.
Visit the Vet
If all else fails, it’s time to visit your vet. They can help you explore new strategies for dealing with separation anxiety, and share what other options might be available for your pup. It’s also crucial to rule out any possible medical conditions that could be contributing to your dog’s behavior.