5 Effective Ways to Help a Dog with Severe Separation Anxiety
Does your dog make you feel guilty every time you leave him alone at home? Does the dog howl excessively and get into destructive acts? You are most likely facing a separation anxiety problem.
Signs & Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Separation anxiety is a very common problem for dog owners, especially for those who have puppies and adopted shelter dogs. Separation anxiety occurs when a dog that’s really attached to his owner gets stressed whenever he is left alone, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Common signs include:
- Excessive howling or whining
- Indoor accidents – such as urinating on the floor
- Intense pacing
- Destructive acts – chewing things that the dog shouldn’t be chewing such as furniture and shoes
- Scratching at the floor or door when you leave home
- Excessive drooling
- Dog is glued to you when you are at home
- Disinterest in eating
- Escaping – dog will try and find a way to escape the area they are confined in
These aren’t good behaviors that you would want your dog to show on a regular occurrence. Separation anxiety isn’t something that’s completely fixable but there are certain steps you can take to grow your dog’s level of comfort of staying alone at home.
How to Help a Dog with Separation Anxiety
Here are some things you may want to try to help your dog’s separation anxiety. Patience is important as separation anxiety isn’t something that’ll go away after a few days.
1. Crate Train Your Dog
Crates are a very effective training tool for both puppies and adult dogs. If done correctly, a crate should feel like a safe haven for your dog (crates should not be used for punishment).
Ten minutes before you leave home, put your dog in the crate and make sure to also put in his favorite toys. Also make sure your dog has a chance to relieve himself before he is placed in the crate.
Next, fake your dog out by doing some practice departures. Start off with leaving your home for a few seconds to get a general idea of your dog’s anxiety level. Over time, increase the length of your departure to a few minutes then a few hours.
The goal of this exercise is to desensitize and to show your dog that it isn’t a big deal when you leave because you will always be coming back home. You can start leaving your dog out of the crate once you think he is comfortable with being alone at home.
2. Exercise Before You Head Out for Work
Before you head out for work, take your dog out for a brisk walk. The goal is to tire out your dog and to encourage him to take a nap while you are out. This is also good for dogs that get bored easily.
This might not be as easy for dog owners who live in places with a very cold winter. Fortunately, there are simple indoor dog exercises you can do without having to face the brutal winter temperature.
3. Implement a Pet Camera + Monitoring System
Keep an eye on how your dog behaves when you leave. One way to distinguish boredom and separation anxiety is by looking at how quickly the dog reacts to being alone.
Separation anxiety typically starts as soon as you are out of the door. Boredom, on the other hand, typically starts a little later. Some pet cams may come with two-way microphones that allow you to distinguish separation anxiety more easily by listening to the dog’s barks or whines.
4. Turn on the Radio or TV
Your dog’s destructive act could be a result of boredom and not separation anxiety. If your dog is left alone at home for an extended period of time (couple of hours), then see if leaving the TV or radio on while you are away makes any difference.
Stick to a TV or radio channel that’s relaxing, such as cooking shows. Avoid content such as action and war genre shows and movies that may produce destructive or high-pitched sounds. These content may create more stress than relief for your dog.
5. Consult a Vet
It’s best to receive a behavioral consultation from a vet if your dog has a severe case of separation anxiety. In some cases, a vet may prescribe medication to help your dog’s behavioral issue. Just like people, dogs may also suffer from mental health illnesses so medication could prove to be an effective way to improve your dog’s quality of life.