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Dealing with Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

by Coach Lilly

If you’ve ever seen your dog get stressed out when you leave him home alone, possibly even whining, barking, and scratching doors and furniture, you may have wondered if your dog suffers from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can be a real issue for dogs and their owners, but how can you tell if your dog really has separation anxiety, or if there is some other issue that needs to be addressed? Read on for a brief introduction to what separation anxiety is, how to recognize it, and how to deal with it.

 

What is separation anxiety?

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), “separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they’re attached to.” A dog with separation anxiety will become distressed when its guardian leaves, even if there are other dogs or people around to keep him company.

 

Recognizing the signs

Your dog may be distressed when you leave him home alone. That’s natural—your pet loves you and prefers to be around you. But how do you know if your dog has a real problem with separation anxiety or if he just gets bored and lonely when left home alone?

To tell the difference, watch for the signs. Dogs with separation anxiety may bark, whine, drool more than usual, or follow you around anxiously when they sense that you are preparing to leave the house. They might pace around the house in worried circles. They may have accidents in the house even if they are house-trained, or they may turn into escape artists and try to get out of the house. They may become destructive, chewing on your things instead of their own toys.

Sometimes, all this means that more training is needed. For example, if your dog has accidents on the carpet whether you are home or not, these accidents may only mean that he still needs more housetraining. But depending on the severity of the symptoms that you observe, destructive behaviors could mean there is a more serious underlying problem.

 

Treating separation anxiety

When a dog shows signs of separation anxiety, there are a few ways you can help him feel better. The ASPCA suggest that when treating a dog’s separation anxiety, the goal is to help “resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone.”

Young and active dogs need plenty of exercise and chewing toys at their disposal so they can get out their energy in appropriate ways. DoggieNation has a large selection of sports team dog toys that are perfect for playing with your dog and helping her get the wiggles out.

After you have walked, exercised, and played with your dog, when it is time for you to leave her home alone, don’t make a big production about it. Dramatic goodbyes may cause your dog even more anxiety.

If exercise and a calm departure ritual don’t ease your dog’s anxiety, talk to your vet or a dog trainer. There are dog behavior consultants that specialize in issues like separation anxiety. You can search online to find recommended dog behavior consultants in your city, or ask a fellow dog owner for recommendations.

Depending on how severe your dog’s anxiety is, your vet may even prescribe medication to help treat it. However, any medication should also be accompanied by behavior modifications and training. Training can take time and consistency, so it is a good idea to choose to a simple plan that will be easy for you to follow consistently

 

Separation anxiety can be a serious challenge for you and your dog, but there is help available. If your dog shows any of these signs of separation anxiety, educate yourself on treatments and training so that you can find the best way to bring calm to your dog (and yourself!)

Have you ever had to deal with a pet’s separation anxiety? Share your experiences in the comments.

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