6 Ways to help your dog when he is suffering separation anxiety
by Candid Tails on Apr 19, 2022
Separation anxiety is a severe anxiety disorder that affects about 20% of dogs. Pets suffering from separation anxiety often bark, whine, scratch doors or try to escape.
They are often dogs with behavioral problems who are unable to relax when alone. They walk around or pace back and forth and in extreme cases, refuse to eat or drink until the owner returns home. They are misunderstood animals who are suffering from stress and anxiety and are not getting the help they need.
How do I know if my dog is suffering from separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety affects a pet's behavior and causes fear and stress, which results in a behavior modification. This can be a sign that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety. That's why we tell you about some behavioral problems in dogs that you should pay attention to. If you notice that your dog is restless and suffers from any of the following symptoms, see your vet.
Aggressive behavior: barking, whining, whimpering and groaning. Aggressive dogs may destroy objects, furniture or scatter rubbish.
Change in habits: Even if they have learned to do their needs outside the house, stress in dogs can cause anxiety and as a consequence they often change their habits.
Vomiting or diarrhea: These symptoms are more common in severe cases of anxiety.
Other symptoms: Loss of appetite or hair loss, compulsive licking, not drinking anything, attention deficit and ignoring favorite toys can be other common symptoms of this disorder.
Causes of separation anxiety in dogs
Although the causes of separation anxiety are not yet clear, some situations, according to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), have been associated with this behavior:
- being abandoned or given to a new family
- changes in how long the dog is left alone
- moving to a new residence
- the absence of a family member
A common MYTH about separation anxiety
"One that I hear so commonly from friends and family is that people have caused separation anxiety by coddling their dogs. That’s just really not true. Separation anxiety is a panic disorder, and letting your dog sleep with you or join you on outings does not cause separation anxiety. It’s actually pretty hard to “create” a separation anxiety dog"
- Dr. Jen Summerfield
What can I do to help?
Separation from attachment figures (owner, dog trainer) is important for your pet to get used to being alone. This disorder can be treated and cured, but it will require medical attention, lots of care and lots of affection. Although their barking can sometimes cause headaches, be patient.
In practical terms you can attach a positive feeling to your departure. You can do this by giving him his most special reward like his favorite treat right before you leave. Eventually he may even look forward to your departure.
2) Encourage them to exercise:
Like people, exercise is a positive reinforcement for dogs and helps with their mental health. Before you leave for work, walk your pet so that when you return home he will be relaxed and ready to rest.
3) Stay calm:
Our pets are very intelligent, they learn our attitudes and habits by living with us, so they know when we are stressed. Try to avoid transmitting these feelings to your pet, especially before you leave.
4) Take small outings several times a day:
This will help your dog manage their independence and help them understand that their owner is coming home. Start by leaving him alone for 5 minutes and then extend the outings until he gets used to you being away. This method has proven to be efficient with children with attachment disorder, who suffer under the same conditions. Therefore, it is recommended for puppies that have been separated from their mother.
5) Improve their environment:
It is important that they have a comfortable place to lie down, blankets and their favorite toys. Sometimes it is helpful to leave a light on, so they feel like you are in the house. You can also leave the TV on or an audio book on to keep them company and distract them.
6) Try natural calming remedies
Many dog trainers are in favor of using supplements for separation anxiety as a complement for their training as A dog who is panicking can’t learn anything useful and isn’t likely to be interested in treats or toys. So until we can get that panic response under control, it’s often hard to make much headway on teaching the dog to be calmer when the owner is away. Anxiety medication or natural alternatives are a great way to help dogs to stop being overwhelmed and get used to their environment. The latter is more suitable for long term use as it doesn't have the side effects most medication causes.