#1 Guide on Separation Anxiety in Dogs and How to Cure ItReading Time: 5 minutes
Separation anxiety in dogs can be defined as a problematic behavior that expresses itself through signs like barking, whining, property destruction, self-mutilation and attempts to escape. It is not to be confused with simulated separation anxiety, which is a learned behavior.
A dog that suffers true separation anxiety is in a state of absolute panic when left alone. This dog will howl for as long as you are away, scratch its paws raw trying to open a gate or a door and leave puddles of sweat or drool from anxiousness.
What is Dog Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety in dogs is a term loosely bandied about. A dog with true separation anxiety can only be diagnosed by a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. The root of a true separation anxiety is a hyper-attachment to a single individual. This causes the dog severe distress when that individual is not present.
Know the Difference Between Separation Anxiety and Isolation Distress!
Although not to be taken lightly, isolation distress is a milder form of separation anxiety in dogs. Similar symptoms, i.e excessive barking, house soiling and destructive behavior, are witnessed. Yet, the dog suffering from isolation distress will be content in the company of another member of the family or another familiar person.
5 Potential Causes of Dog Anxiety
Many dog owners wonder whether the cause of their beloved dog’s separation anxiety is their fault. In most cases, this is not so.
Although the root cause cannot always be sniffed out for separation anxiety in dogs, below are some of the more common reasons:
1. Trauma experienced as a puppy. For example, long-distance transportation, malnutrition or removal from its mother and litter mates too early.
2. Being abandoned or returned to a shelter repeatedly. This is true for puppies as well as older dogs.
3. A change in routine, e.g a guardian returning to a full day of work after having been at home with the dog for long periods of time.
4. Loss of a family member, whether as a result of death or moving away (e.g. older children leaving home, going off to college).
5. Moving homes.
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Alternative Dog Anxiety Medication: The Wonders of CBD Oil for Dogs
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Delicious Calming Treats
Honest Paws premium dog treats contain 100 % natural hemp oil as well as turmeric and roasted peanut butter. Not only are these yummy snacks good for joints and muscles, they are great for helping to calm your pup too.
Smear a bit of peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese inside a Kong and stick a couple of these tasty calming treats in there.
This delicious distraction can keep your doggo busy for a while. Another idea to keep your anxious dog busy is to hide some of these treats in a puzzle toy.
Is Puppy Separation Anxiety Something to Worry About?
Absolutely! Never mind the aggravation of the potential destruction to your property and the complaints from neighbors. A dog suffering from separation anxiety is in a state of utter panic upon being left by its guardian and is likely to cause itself significant bodily harm.
A pet with separation anxiety is often returned to shelters several times. There are few people who understand this condition and are willing to put in the effort to remedy the problem.
Many animals with these behavior problems end up being euthanized by exasperated owners not willing to dedicate themselves to assisting the dog with making a recovery.
How to Train Dogs Who Hate Being Alone!
Recovery is possible. Canines with separation anxiety can be rehabilitated. Through the correct training and oodles of patience and dedication from you, your separation anxiety pooch can learn to live a happy and well-balanced life free of anxious behavior.
Home Alone? Never!
Before you can even begin to start training away separation anxiety in dogs, you need to ensure that your dog has no reason to panic. Initially, your dog cannot be left alone. You will need to create a routine whereby your dog has constant company. Especially in severe cases!
· If your pup is dog-friendly, you could consider doggy day-care or a dog walker for when you are at work or are running errands.
· If you have a friend or family member that is at home during the day, you could ask them whether your dog could spend some days with them.
· You could employ a dog sitter.
· If possible, take your dog to work with you.
The important thing here is that your dog is never left alone. Potential caregivers/companions must understand this.
How to Calm a Dog and Let the Training Begin!
The first step in behavior modification and training the separation anxiety in dogs is to establish what its threshold for separation is.
Step 1: Establishing the Threshold
You can do this by setting up a camera in your home. Using an app like Skype, Zoom or Facetime, you can then watch your dog from your smartphone.
As soon as you leave your home, start a timer and watch the footage of your dog from a place where they cannot see or hear you. Look for anxiety cues such as whining, pacing, barking, yawning, lip licking and jumping at the door or gate.
Continue to watch for up to 10 minutes to see the full spectrum of your dog’s behavior. Your dog’s threshold is the time it takes for these behaviors to commence, whether that be 5 minutes after you leave or before you even close the door.
Step 2: Systematic Desensitization
Do things that you would usually do when leaving the home, but do not leave. For example, walk to the door, open it, step outside and walk back in again. Or walk to the door, turn the knob and then head back to the sofa to watch a bit of TV.
Your dog will gradually realize that your opening the door isn’t always a freak-out-worthy activity that results in your absence!
Step 3: Predeparture Cues
You can be sure that your doggo knows that you are intending to leave long before you touch that doorknob!
Other cues such as putting on your shoes or your jacket, picking up your keys or setting the alarm will alert your pup to the fact that your exit is imminent.
Try to spend some time doing these activities without actually leaving. Only tackle new cues once you are confident that your dog is comfortable with the previous one.
Distraction Action! Dog Calming Music/Dog Soothing Music?
Providing your dog with mental and physical stimulation is an important part of curbing many behavioral issues, especially anxiety separation. Once you have reached a point in your training, where you are confident enough to leave your hound alone for a while, you can use the below methods to distract them during the time that you are away.
a· Exercise your dog before you leave, allowing for 30 minutes for them to relax before you set off.
· Provide food puzzle toys or other favorite chew things.
· Play calming music or white noise to block out sounds from the outside world.
· Make your dog “hunt” for its supper by hiding small piles of kibble around the house or yard when you leave.
Take up positive-reinforcement training classes with your pup. These can be for obedience training, agility or to learn fun tricks.
Once you and your bestie have learned a few new skills, you can practice them before leaving your pup at home on its own. Hopefully, the mental stimulation of trying these new skills will have tired your doggo out a bit.
Exercise is a Great Stress Reliever – Natural Anxiety Medication for Dogs
Give your dog at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Include running and/or swimming to get your pup’s heart rate up! When you go on walks, try to take different routes or visit new places as often as possible.
New sights and sounds will give your pooch lots to mull over when left on its own and can cure some of that separation anxiety in dogs. To affirm your connection and tire your pet pup out a little, play fun and interactive games like fetch, hide-and-seek, and tug-of-war.
For some dogs, being confined to a crate will only worsen their anxiety. For others, if they learn to view their crate as their den or safe space, crate training can be of great value.
It depends on the individual. Monitor your dog’s behavior when being crated before commencing with crate training.
Final Note on Separation Anxiety: Dogs Can’t Fix This on Their Own!
The road to recovery is a long one. You will need patience, plenty of it. Your anxious hound will need a lot of validation from you. And a village. The saying “It takes a village”, was never more appropriate.
Initially, your pup will need to be secure in the knowledge that it will never be left alone. Only then can you start setting up for success and freedom from separation anxiety.
4 Common Questions on Anxious Dogs
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