Have you ever come home from work and found that your home looks like a storm ripped through it? Or put your dog in a separate room and had to replace the paint on the door after he panicked? Then you know how destructive separation anxiety can be. And it’s not just destructive for your possessions. Separation anxiety can be mentally and emotionally devastating for your dog as well.
Separation anxiety is a lot more common than people think, but that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a home full of destroyed belongings. Keep reading to get some tips to help you and your best friend find some peace.
What causes separation anxiety?
As with any other type of anxiety, there’s no single cause. Many different things can cause a dog to suffer from separation anxiety. A change in the dog’s routine, moving to a new home, being rehomed to a different family, a change in the family dynamic (new baby, oldest child leaving for college, divorce). Anything can cause a dog to suffer from separation anxiety, even if he hasn’t before.
Symptoms of separation anxiety
If your dog has separation anxiety, it’s usually pretty easy to tell. Urinating or defecating in the house, constant barking and whining while you’re away, pacing, destroying your possessions, crying when he’s alone – all of these are symptoms of separation anxiety.
So what can you do?
The first thing you should do is talk to your vet. There are medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, that can help your dog, but you absolutely should not take it upon yourself to choose one without speaking to your vet.
Medication alone doesn’t usually fix the problem, though. A combination of medication and behavior modification is needed. If your dog starts to get upset when you pick up your keys or put on a coat, try doing those things then not leaving. Pick up your keys, then sit down and read or watch TV or whatever you’d like to do. Teach your dog through your actions that picking up your keys doesn’t always lead to bad things.
Next try to get your dog used to short absences, and then longer ones. Put him on the other side of a door where he can’t physically see you, starting for a just a few minutes, then graduating to longer times. Doing this will teach your dog that just because he can’t see you, you’re not gone forever. You’ll be back.
Another method you can use is not praising or petting your dog if he’s overly excited when you get home. If he’s jumping and yelping, gently push him off and don’t fawn all over him. Don’t give him any attention until he’s calmed down. Teach him that he has to be polite when you come home.
Remember that none of this is going to work overnight. You’re going to have to put in a lot of work and try different methods until you find what works for you and your dog.
There’s no guarantee that you can get rid of separation anxiety all together, but by using these tips and working with your vet, you’ll give your dog his best chance to be a happy, anxiety-free pup!