Imagine coming back home from a nice evening out, opening the door and finding your favorite pair of shoes destroyed, a book in a million different pieces, or the couch pillow stuffing all over the living room floor.
Would you be…
A) Angry B) Confused C) Shocked – or – D) All of the Above
I’m going to go out on a limb and say, D) All of the Above. Why? Because I was all of those emotions when my dog Coco took her anxiety out on various items in the house.
This is how my journey began with learning the most effective ways to deal with separation anxiety in dogs.
As you can imagine, lots of questions ran through my mind. Why is she doing this? Why does she hate it when we leave the house? She’s not by herself in the house – there is another dog home. So, wouldn’t that help? What can I do to make the situation better?
My other dog never acted in this way so I had no clue what to do. But I needed to figure it out ASAP for both of our sakes. I don’t want her feeling anxious or stressed out. Nor do I want to lose another pair of shoes, pillow, hat… You get the idea.
So, I must dedicate this post to Coco, my sweet yet troublesome pup. I hope my experience with Coco will help others in similar situations.
First things first though…
If you haven’t already read the post on separation anxiety – what it is, the causes, and symptoms: you can check it out here.
Take a Moment to Understand Your Dog
We have to understand what could be the underlying issues that cause separation anxiety in the first place.
Our pets form a strong bond and attachment to their owners. One reason for this: we typically spend a lot of time with them. So to your pets, when you’re out of sight or leave the home, they may think you are not coming back. They are bit thrown off by your absence. This is reason enough to make your dog anxious and distressed when left alone. Makes sense, right? He doesn’t have your guidance or attention and may respond in a variety of destructive and unwanted ways.
There are varying degrees of this behavior.
Some pace around the house and whine. Others will take it further and rip apart the couch.
Remember, it’s not necessarily that he is lacking proper training; it is likely to be the result of relieving his anxiety and stress. Obviously not in a good way.
By action I don’t mean harsh discipline – I mean trying a variety of methods to treat and stop separation anxiety in your dog. I will break it down into the most popular and effective methods based on the research I have done including some of the ways I have tried with my own dog.
If you have any questions along the way, please be sure to leave a comment at the end.
So without further ado, here are “The 9 Most Effective Ways to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Dogs”…
CHANGE YOUR ROUTINE
You may need to change old habits and implement new ones to “do right” by your dog. Your goal is to focus on progress no matter how small it is. Reward with a treat for positive reinforcement.
• Zero Emotion: Make your departures and returns completely free of emotion. Avoid huggy/kissy “I love you” or “I will miss you sooooo much” moments. If he gets elated and jumps all over you when you return, pay no attention. Say hello later in a calm manner.
Don’t worry. Your dog will still love you.
• Practice Fake Departures: Carry out your departure routine even when you aren’t going anywhere. For instance, pick up your car keys but sit down on the couch, watch TV, or grab a drink of water. Do any of your common activities while at home. This will help make your “real” departure less traumatic.
• Simple Goodbye Expressions: Use expressions like “I’ll be back” or “see you later”. Start using these expression only when you know you’ll return within the time period your dog can handle, even if that means just 5 minutes. Gradually increase the time away. Continue using these expressions each and every time you depart so he will associate it will a normal occurrence; nothing to worry about.
• Remove Items: Before you leave the house, remove items or put them out of reach. Whatever you deem important or likely your dog will go after just put them away where your dog can’t get to.
EXERCISE YOUR PUP
Exercise your dog before you leave the house. Typically, exercise produces a happy and relaxed dog. And when your dog is tired, he has less energy to be anxious and destructive.
For a low-energy dog, a 10 minute walk may be sufficient. For a high-energy dog, plan for 20-30+ minutes of exercise. A nice run, walk, or an intense game of fetch will do wonders.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TRAINING BENEFITS
Crate training: Use the crate and the benefits that come from crate training. Make good use of crate training’s ability to teach your dog that a crate is a safe and comforting place to go to. This can come in handy when your dog is stressed since he will likely use the crate as his haven.
However, if you haven’t already practiced proper crate training with your dog earlier on, it will not do any good in the moments of stress. It may actually cause more harm and anxiety to your pet.
USE ENGAGING TOYS AND TREATS
When home alone, boredom can sometimes cause anxiety. Toys and treats are a great way to keep him entertained and distracted in your absence, but it’s by no means a cure. You may use different engaging toys and treats for immediate relief but don’t forget about practicing the other methods.
Stuffable Toys: 5 to 15 minutes before you leave, give your dog an adequately-stuffed toy like a Kong or a toy puzzle to take his mind off your departure and keep him occupied for a little while. Freeze the stuffable toy to make it last longer!
Get creative with the treat you put inside as long as it’s dog friendly of course!
No prescription needed here!
• Calming Treats: The active ingredients of these treats include Chamomile Flower, Passion Flower, Ginger Root, and L-Tryptophan; all helping to relieve stress and anxiety and calm the nerves. My go-to calming treats would have to be Complete Calm by K9 Nature Supplements.
• Calming Treats With Melatonin: In addition to the ingredients listed above, melatonin is an additional ingredient to help to promote rest and relaxation. Perfect for night time, long car rides, or longer stays away. I recommend NaturVet Quiet Moments treats.
• Cannabinoid Supplements For Dogs: These supplements are valued for its versatility and application in treating various ailments. It is a proven choice to help relieve your pets’ anxiety and support their nervous system during a stressful time aka their owner leaving the house!
Learn More at Canna-Pet (A Reputable Maker of Cannabinoid Supplements)
The ThunderShirt is in its own category because is nothing like the others. This vest wraps your pet snuggly — giving the feeling that he is being “hugged” because of the slight pressure it creates around the body. Your dog is probably craving that feeling of security if he hates being alone. This method is a good option if you want to avoid any type of medications including the natural kind. Plus you will be able to reuse the vest over and over again.
PHEROMONES & SERUMS
• Pheromone Technology: Various products use an odorless vapor/scent that’s meant to mimic a dog’s natural calming pheromones. Sort of like that nice warm feeling they had when around their mother during those first months of life. Your pet is likely to feel calm, secure, and can relax when you use pheromone technology with him.
Some of these products include: diffusers (plug-ins), sprays, liquid drops, and collars.
• Natural Stress Relief Serum: This type of serum contains homeopathic ingredients such as Egyptian Geranium Oil, Lavender Oil, and Chamomile Extract. It promotes relaxation while conditioning the skin and fur.
CONSIDER DOGGY DAY CARE & PET SITTERS
Try alternative dog-keeping situations to reduce the occasions when you do have to leave him alone. Sometimes it’s better to be around other human beings or dogs than being alone.
• Doggie Daycare – Try a doggie daycare facility that has ample room to run around and play including space to rest. Here he will have a great opportunity to socialize with other dogs and get some human interaction. It may be suitable for some dogs, but not for all.
• Pet Sitter – Perhaps a neighbor, relative or friend may appreciate some canine companionship and will watch your pet while you’re away. You may also want to try professional pet sitting services. Check if this service is available in your area.
USE TECHNOLOGY TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
• TV & Music – Leave on the television or play music so there is noise in the house when you are not home. It can create the feeling of normalcy in the house. Who knows, maybe your dog will be entertained by a tv show. It wouldn’t be a bad idea either to create a playlist of relaxing music or just leave the radio on.
• Camera – Set up a home surveillance camera that comes with a two way audio system. This is an awesome way to check on your pet via video streaming on your phone or tablet while you’re away. Best of all, you can talk to your dog! But in a nice calming way. Hearing the sound of voice may soothe your dog’s anxiety. He may feel you’re around the house or somewhere close by. On the other hand, it can come in handy to catch your dog in the act of chewing or destroying something and potentially stop him from continuing.
Success is Possible
Dealing with your dog’s separation anxiety is no easy task. Set yourself up for success with these tips:
1. A combination of the methods listed above is usually needed to make a signification impact on the situation.
2. Do not punish or yell at your pet in the event you come home to find your dog has destroyed something in the house or has made a mess. This will only make the situation worse.
3. Remember that consistency is crucial when trying different methods to treat separation anxiety.
4. Before giving up, which I hope you do not!, make sure you give you and your pet adequate time to see some improvement — somewhere around 2-4 weeks, give or take. This will depend on the frequency and length of your departures and your consistency in applying the various methods.
5. Did I mention consistency?
If your pet is suffering from separation anxiety, he needs your help and patience more than ever to help him get better. You know the situation is both stressful to you as the owner and your pet. I went through a lot of trial and error with Coco but we have made progress in the right direction. So that means something is working! The suggestions I include in this post are without a doubt worth a try.
Separation anxiety is real. It will not go away on its own and it’s unlikely that your puppy will grow out of it.
Take action, the right way.
Furthermore, I encourage you to contact your veterinarian for more information, ESPECIALLY if your dog is not responding positively to the suggested methods, or in the case your dog suffers from extreme separation anxiety — prescription medication may be necessary. Hopefully you won’t have to resort to that.
Wishing you much success in treating separation anxiety with your beloved pet!
How does your dog act when you leave him or her alone at the house? What method(s) have you effectively used to deal with separation anxiety in your dog? Please share your story!
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