How to Help a Dog with Separation Anxiety
Does your pet misbehave when left alone? Excessive barking, howling, or scratching at doors? These are all signs of separation anxiety. It is estimated that 20% to 40% of dogs have this issue. The risk is higher for pets living in a home with a single adult owner then living in a household of more than one person.
Fortunately, there are more natural ways to calm your furry friend. Before popping pills, consider using these simple remedies to treat your little devil. Behavior modification training can help as well.
So before you learn how to help a dog with separation anxiety, let’s first learn a bit more about what separation anxiety is…
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Dogs are sociable animals. You are the closest thing that your pet has to a family. When you leave him alone, he might feel abandoned. This leads to destructive behaviors and even self-harm.
About 30 percent of senior dogs are struggling with separation anxiety. Some breeds are more susceptible than others. Weimaraners, Spring Spaniels, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers have the highest risk.
This condition is a form of canine anxiety. Dogs suffering from this disorder express their fear of being left alone in loud, inconvenient ways. They might urinate or defecate inside the house, bark more than usual, dig holes, or chew things. Some try to escape the house, getting lost on the streets. In severe cases, their anxiety may lead to household damage and self-injury.
Causes and Risk Factors
Separation anxiety is often the result of past traumatic experiences. Sometimes, the death of a family member or another pet in the household triggers this issue. Researchers are not sure what its exact causes are. It is believed that shelter dogs, as well as those who suffered the loss of a human friend, are predisposed to this condition.
Lifestyle changes, such as moving to a new city or being left alone for too long, may cause separation anxiety too. This problem can affect any pet, not just dogs. It often occurs in cats, hamsters, or parrots. Simply said, they’re afraid of being left alone. Any change in the family’s routine or dynamics can trigger its symptoms.
Knowing how to help a dog with separation anxiety can save his life. Just imagine what could happen if your beloved friend escapes the house or injures himself. Thus, it’s crucial to identify the symptoms and take the steps needed to prevent these issues.
What Separation Anxiety Looks Like
Dogs of all ages and breeds can develop this problem. The most common signs include:
- Intense pacing around the house
- Lack of appetite
- Urinating or defecating indoors
- Aggressive destructive behavior
- Excessive drooling
- Digging at doors
- Scratching doors or windows
- Constant barking and whining
- Anxiety and depression
Many times, separation anxiety is mistaken for misbehavior. As a result, pet owners punish the dog instead of helping him recover. If these symptoms occur only in your absence or every time you leave, your dog has separation anxiety.
This disorder causes your pet to experience extreme stress. It’s not a learned behavior. If left untreated, it may lead to depression and full-blown panic attacks.
How to Deal with Separation Anxiety
Coming home to find out that your place has been wrecked is no fun. However, punishing your dog is the worst thing you can do. Your furry friend misbehaves because he misses you. It’s his way of showing how much you mean to him.
The question is: What’s the best way to deal with dog anxiety? About 41% of dogs don’t receive treatment, which only worsens the problem. 22% are treated with drugs and behavior modifications.
Over 10% are treated with drugs alone. Unfortunately, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications carry side effects. Hyperthermia, rapid heart rate, diarrhea, seizures, confusion, and difficulty walking are just a few to mention. There are safer ways to help your furry friend.
First of all, teach him to accept being left alone. Behavior modification training can make all the difference. For instance, play with your dog before leaving home. This will drain his energy, which in turn, helps reduce anxiety. Tired pets are less likely to be destructive.
Don’t make a fuss when you’re walking out the door. Stay calm and walk away without giving your pet hugs and kisses. Eliminate stressors that may affect him, such as harsh verbal punishment, shock collars, or choke chains.
If possible, change your departure routine. This an excellent way how to help a dog with separation anxiety. Eat breakfast before taking a shower, or pick up the keys and then watch TV instead of leaving home right away. This way, your pet’s anxiety will decrease as he won’t be able to identify your departure cues.
Natural remedies can help too. On top of that, they have none of the side effects of prescription drugs. These products will naturally calm your dog and relieve anxiety.
Natural Remedies for Separation Anxiety
Holistapet – CBD Dog Treats +Stress & Anxiety Relief, for instance, is made with all natural ingredients and contains no gluten, dairy, or GMOs. Chamomile, one of its active compounds, balances your pet’s mood and eases stress. L-theanine, an amino acid, promotes relaxation and lowers anxiety levels.
Still, wonder how to help a dog with separation anxiety? In this case, teach him to become more independent. Leave him alone more often, but just for a short time. If you’re leaving the house for hours, give your pet a treat or interactive toys. This will keep him busy and ward off boredom.
Another option is to leave him with a friend or neighbor. Dog daycare centers are a good choice too. If his anxiety is severe, consult a dog behavior specialist. Work together to find the best solution for your furry friend.
Separation anxiety doesn’t go away overnight. It can take weeks or even months to reinforce new habits in your pet. The key is to be consistent and work on desensitizing him slowly. Try to identify the root cause of his anxiety and refrain from punishing him.
BONUS! Make sure to read our full Pet Anxiety Guide on Separation Anxiety, Travel Anxiety & Loud Noise Anxiety