Dogs enjoy company and love being around their families and often the other pets in the household, and the majority of dogs do not like being left on their own.
Separation anxiety can be a big problem for many dogs who fret whenever their owners leave the house and this can lead to howling, barking and even destructive behaviour as the dog expresses his grief and frustrations at being left alone.
Our 10 suggestions for dealing with separation anxiety in dogs can help you and your pooch.
Signs of separation anxiety in dogs
Most dog owners are familiar with the common signs of separation anxiety in dogs, things such as howling and barking and destructive behaviour.
But there are other signs to watch out for that could indicate that your dog is anxious when he is left alone.
Other signs can include:
- Destructive behaviour – often this is directed at the place where you left as the dog tries to get out to you, things such as doors or the wallpaper next to the door and even furniture are attacked and mutilated as the dog expresses his anxiety and frustration at being on his own.
- Barking and howling – these are often the main signs of anxiety as the dog cries out for his pack and family to return and is shouting to try and get their attention.
- Going to the toilet – even housetrained dogs can suffer and relieve themselves as their anxiety takes hold. Don’t confuse this with your laziness though. If you haven’t bothered to take your dog out before you leave him then it is not surprising that he has used the house as his toilet. A bursting dog will go if he has to.
- Pacing to and fro – can often be a sign that the dog is worried and cannot settle down.
- Panting, drooling and excessive salivation – are also signs that a dog may be worried.
- In some cases dogs may even self mutilate when anxious, areas would normally be front legs and paws – areas that are within easy reach of the dog’s teeth.
- Vomiting – the dog gets so upset that he simply throws up with worry.
Why do dogs have separation anxiety?
In normal conditions your dog is at home with the family or some members of the family. He has company and feels safe and secure. The old adage of safety in numbers.
As soon as he is left alone, suddenly, he feels insecure and vulnerable. His family – the pack- have all gone and left him.
Your dog does not understand the concepts of work, going shopping, school and other commitments and activities that humans fulfil. When you leave him on his own – you’ve left him and might not come back.
So he gets worried and anxious and tries to get out, if he cannot do that then he barks and howls to try and call out to you so that you might hear him and return.
For some dogs – every time you leave, that’s it, you might not come back – so they get worried.
Ways to help your dog with separation anxiety
You can take a number of steps to help your dog with separation anxiety and many are simple and straightforwards to arrange.
The first things that you should consider are your dog’s safety. Get rid of anything that could harm your dog or that your dog could chew, drink, eat or damage that could hurt him.
Remove chemicals, make sure that electrical leads and cords are inaccessible or removed, or, at the very least unplugged from the supply.
You need to dog proof the area, just as you would toddler proof your home when young children are around – adopt the same strategy with your dog.
Make sure that your dog has a comfortable bed, nice and warm and plenty of clean, fresh water. A supply of toys and maybe a handful of treats to help to keep your dog occupied would also be a good idea.
10 ways to help your dog deal with separation anxiety
There are several ways to help your dog to deal with separation anxiety, these are some of the most common and easy to use suggestions:
1. A dog cage or indoor kennel – an indoor kennel can provide a dog with a sense of greater security as it is almost cave like and the sides and roof provide a sense of safety and enclosure. Drape a blanket over the top and make sure that the interior is comfortable and you have a safe place for your dog to rest. Leave the door open for him. To your dog it is a sheltered, secure den.
2. Use a baby gate – to keep your dog in a certain part of the house. Certain dogs do not mind being restricted, as long as they can see what’s going on in the rest of the house. If that’s the case, a high quality baby or dog gate is a great solution. Just make sure that the gate is tall enough so that your dog cannot jump over it.
3. Company – This does not have to be another dog, cats, rabbits even a parrot in a cage can all be company for a dog. Be careful and use some common sense though, you don’t want to come home and find that Fido has eaten Thumper.
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4. Dog Toys – You can keep your dog occupied with dog toys. Many toys can be filled with things such as tasty pastes and other treats that your dog can lick and extract from the toy. Make sure that you use toys that are tough and durable. The KONG range of dog toys are ideal and there are many available over on Amazon.
5. Music – In the past I’ve used a radio to help dogs to stay settled. Try to find a station that plays classical music and leave it on a low setting so that it provides some background noise and distraction. The combination of music and human voices will help your dog to feel comforted and less alone.
6. Training – Regular training sessions will help to tire your dog mentally which will help him to relax when you are not around.
7. Exercise – Try to take your dog out for a good walk and run around before you have to leave. A good bout of physical activity will wear him out and help him to feel tired and relaxed when you do leave.
8. Leaving and coming home – Try to leave the house calmly without drama and try to make your return similar. Your dog will be pleased to see you when you return, and you will be happy to see him. Try not to get him overexcited when you come home. When you leave, put him calmly onto his bed, making sure that he has water and is comfortable and then leave the house quietly. If it is dark then consider leaving a lamp on too.
9. Mix up the day – Most of us leave the house at the same time and return at the same time. Try to mix things up and vary the routine if you are able so that your dog does not begin to second guess you making himself anxious.
10. Consider a dog walker or doggy day care – A really good option for many dogs is a dog walking service or doggy day care. A dog walker will often collect your dog and take them out for you, thus breaking up his day. Doggy day care centres are places where you drop off your dog and he gets to play with other dogs and enjoy constant company and activities. Many dogs enjoy these places and often don’t want to go home when their owners arrive to collect them.
Many dogs can experience anxiety and this is more common than people suspect.
With some thought and consideration you can help your dog to deal with his separation anxiety.
As with all things you should also speak with your vet to get the benefit of their professional advice as they may also be able to help your canine companion.