Going away for a few hours might be stressful for your dog. If you have noticed your dog gets incredibly nervous when you leave and happy when you return, they may have separation anxiety.
What is separation anxiety?
Some of you may wonder whether their dog has separation anxiety or not. Separation anxiety is visible through your dog's behavior when you are not together.
If your dog becomes distressed and shows destructive behavior when you are away, they may have separation anxiety. Another sign is if your dog is howling and barking when you are away. Often, dogs will ignore their food and only eat it when another person is present.
Sometimes, dogs will not show any of the above signs but will greet their owner with extreme energy as if they hadn't seen them in years. If that's the case, then your dog probably has separation anxiety.
How to stop separation anxiety in dogs?
There are many options to alleviate separation anxiety in dogs, and some may work better than others on your dog. However, since some of these options are training tips, it may take some time to see a positive change in your dog's behavior.
Be consistent and dedicated. Don't give up until you have either seen an improvement or tried all the options below!
Keep reading for my 12 tips on how to help a dog with separation anxiety.
1. Tire your dog before leaving the house
It would help if you took your dog on a walk before leaving the house. If possible, have your dog wear a dog backpack with some extra weight. It will make this walk an exercise for them.
Bring a couple of treats to reward your dog for being calm. Then, when going back to your home, reward them more with their food and some water.
You may need to wait a bit before feeding them since some dogs will need to rest first. However, you may give them water right away!
It will help to associate being calm with a particular food reward, as the association will be stronger. Consider adding a topper to their food when coming back for your walk.
Most dogs are huge fans of fish oil. The fish flavor is very appealing to them. However, because fish oil can be of low quality, pay attention to the source. For example, you may want to get Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil as it is cleaner than 95% of any other type of fish you can find.
Look it up on Google. We also happen to sell our own Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil Formula and have great reviews. Lower quality oil will have an unpleasant fishy smell. When you combine Wild Alaskan Salmon and Wild Alaskan Pollock as we do, you get the best nutrition, but you also get the best flavor since it's 100% wild.
2. Change your leaving routine
You most likely do the same things when leaving your house:
- You put on your shoes
- You put on your jacket or coat
- You grab your purse
- You look for your keys
- You walk the same path in the house
- You walk out the door
While you are trying the other options of this article, consider making some changes to the routine above so that your dog doesn't associate you doing these things and you leaving the house.
For example, you may put on your coat 15 minutes before leaving. You may place your keys in your purse and not jingle them. You may also use a different door to go out.
3. No touch, no talk, no eye contact
Depending on your dog's separation anxiety severity, this one may be more or less difficult. The idea is the following: don't make it a big deal when you leave or return.
To practice this, do the following:
- Don't pet your dog when leaving or coming home.
- Don't talk to your dog. It might be challenging, but you are helping your dog!
- Don't make eye contact with your dog.
You want to practice these three steps for at least 5 minutes before leaving and upon returning. You may practice these steps for up to an hour if your dog can handle it. The better you do it, the calmer your dog will be.
4. Share your affection way before leaving
Since the tip above is hard but necessary, you may still share your affection with your dog. However, we don't want to associate affection with you going away or coming home. Therefore, be affectionate with your dog long before actually leaving home.
5. Be a confident pack leader
Dogs are social creatures who want to be around us 24/7. Dogs evolved from wolves, an animal almost always found in a pack. Also, humans have trained them for thousands of years to assist us in various ways.
Dogs can feel if you are nervous and guilty. So when leaving your home, be calm, confident, and assertive instead. If their pack leader, meaning you, is calm and assertive when leaving, they will feel more relaxed.
6. Practice leaving your dog alone for short amounts of time first
I like this option since it can be very effective in the long run. However, training takes time, dedication, and effort. It doesn't mean it will take hours to practice, but rather a few minutes every day.
Practice leaving your dog alone in your home for 5 minutes, and slowly increase that time until you can be separated for 8 hours. So, you may put them in their favorite room while doing chores somewhere else or going on quick errands.
7. Create a personal space for your dog
Some people sleep with their dogs and do everything with them. It is all fun and games until it's time to leave them alone. You may want to practice helping your dog with separation anxiety around bedtime.
Instead of sleeping with your dog, get them a separate pet bed and create personal space for them. Teach your dog to be comfortable in their area by petting them and giving them treats when they are calm in their bed.
Having their own space will help them feel more independent and not get as anxious when separated.
8. Use comfort items and audiobooks
Leave some dirty laundry or clothing items that have your scent around the house. It can help your dog remember you are coming back and help them relax. You can also hide treats to make it a small hunting game around the house when you are away.
Finally, studies have found that the sound of a human voice can help dogs relax. Consider playing audiobooks while you are away.
9. Break up your day and try not to leave for too long
Despite doing all this correctly, if you still leave your dog for many hours, they might still experience separation anxiety. Going home for lunch or breaking up your errands can minimize your time away from home. If you are usually out for 8 hours or even more, you can look into dog daycare centers.
10. Ask your veterinarian
Depending on your situation, your vet may be able to give you some extra help, including medicine. In addition, they will know your dog's health and condition and be able to guide you.
11. Get some pet anxiety accessories
Any toy which will help your dog stay busy for minutes or even hours can help with anxiety. Consider dog toys such as KONG or similar treat-hiding toys. Your dog will need to work hard to get their treat!
A healthy alternative I am personally a fan of are antlers for dogs. They will easily last for days, and you can also use a bone-hiding toy to make it more of a challenge for your dog.
12. Look into pet anxiety supplements
I would recommend this option as a last resort since it may or not work with your dog. Check Google for calming treats and give it a try. Let us know if it works for you in the comments below!
About 70% of dogs display some anxiety. Therefore, dog separation anxiety is a widespread problem in our community. We sometimes try one or two things and decide they are not working for us, and we give up. Please consider the list of tips above and be consistent for a couple of weeks. Then, let me know how it goes in the comments below.
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