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How to Reduce Separation Anxiety in Your Dog

 

Chocolate labrador suffering from anxiety

Separation anxiety is a very common behavioral disorder in dogs. Because dogs with separation anxiety usually exhibit destructive behavior, they tend to be accused of being "bad" or "misbehaving". In reality, this couldn't be further from the truth! Dogs with separation anxiety are crying out for help in the only way they know how. Some typical anxious behaviors include excessive drooling, barking and/or whining, indoor elimination, restlessness, reluctance to eat, and panting/licking lips/pacing. By taking steps to help your dog their overcome separation anxiety, you are making a great effort to give them the happiest life possible.


Start Small

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, start small. Remember that your dog is emotionally distressed when you leave the house. This can be very taxing on the health of your pet. Leaving for a short period of time and setting up a video camera is a smart way to find out exactly what anxious behavior your dog exhibits while you're away. This will help the vet determine the best course of action to help your dog. He or she might need a small dose of anxiety medication to keep them comfortable at first. Separation anxiety can also be a sign of a serious disease, so it's important to get your dog checked by a veterinarian before trying anything else.

Leaving for a few hours at a time and then gradually increasing the length of your departure is a great way to ease your dog into being separated from you. Try giving your dog something to do while you're away. Many dogs respond well to something that keeps them busy--a toy stuffed with a treat is a popular choice.


Don't Make it a Big Deal

It can be very stressful for your dog when he senses that you are about to leave. You can help eliminate some of this stress by preparing for your departure the night before. Keep your shoes, wallet, keys, etc. in one place to avoid running around frantically in the morning. Instead of making a big deal out of leaving by giving your dog lots of attention, try limiting your interaction with them; gather your things, give them a toy, and leave. When you return, avoid greeting your pet until they have calmed down. Instead of jumping around with your overexcited dog, wait until he is relaxed and calm. This will help your dog realize that departures and arrivals are not a big deal to you.


Leave an Article of Clothing

It is important that your dog has a safe space, such as a crate or bed, where he or she can feel comfortable while you're away. Crates have been shown to reduce anxiety in dogs by giving them the feeling of having their own private "den." Be sure they have access to any comfort objects, such as a special toy or blanket, before you leave. Because dogs heavily associate your scent with you, it might help to leave an article of your clothing in their bed for reassurance. Your scent will hopefully keep them calm and relaxed.


Tire Them Out!

Many dogs have an abundance of energy that only worsens their separation anxiety. Helping your dog expend some of that energy will reduce their anxiety and help them relax before you leave. If you leave for work early in the morning, wake up an hour earlier to take your dog on a long walk. If you're leaving in the afternoon, try taking your dog to the dog park for a long playdate! When you return home, your dog is likely to need a nap, making it less likely that he or she will panic when it's time for you to go.

Most people expect their dogs to be fine at home while they are at work all day, but unfortunately this is unrealistic for many pets. Your dog does not know you have to go to work; he just wants to be with you! Taking a few days off from work in order to help improve your dog's behavior is a wonderful investment in their health and overall quality of life.


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by: Nick Braun

 

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