7 Helpful Tips for Managing Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is something that is incredibly stressful for both you and your pup. You wish more than anything you could explain to your dog that you’re just going to the grocery store, you’re going to be right back, he doesn’t need to rip down the blinds… for the third time. And your dog wishes you would just never, ever, ever, ever leave. Ever. But that just isn’t an option—and it’s up to you (with a little help from your veterinarian and a trainer) to teach your pup that he or she will be okay when left alone.
At Germantown Vet, we have helped countless pet parents manage their dog’s separation anxiety—contact us today to schedule an appointment by calling 240-252-7467240-252-7467.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Dogs are pack animals—and you and your other family members make up your pup’s whole world. In the wild, dogs are almost never separated from the other members in their pack, so it’s up to you to teach your dog that being apart is okay. However, some dogs experience excessive separation anxiety, which can be due to their own natural temperament or a traumatic experience.
So how can you tell if your dog is experiencing separation anxiety? He or she may suffer from the following symptoms, which are exacerbated when you are away or getting ready to leave:
- Chewing and destroying furniture
- Barking and howling
- Urinating and defecating
Some of these symptoms can be caused by other health issues or factors, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis from one of the experienced veterinarians at Germantown Vet—otherwise you risk overlooking an important medical issue.
7 Tips for Managing Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
Here are our seven tips for managing your dog’s separation anxiety:
1. Take your dog for a walk before you leave.
Try to work out some of your dog’s energy before you leave the house. The more tired your pup is, the less energy he or she will have to devote to being upset.
2. Project confidence when you’re leaving the house.
Your dog takes his or her cues about how to behave from you—if you seem guilty, upset, or nervous, it’s going to tell your dog that something is wrong, and it’s time to start getting worked up. You need to stay calm and confident as you leave to let your pup know that everything is safe and okay.
3. Use counterconditioning to train your dog.
A great way to manage your dog’s separation anxiety is to start implementing counterconditioning. This method simply takes something that your dog currently finds stressful (being left alone) and starts pairing that activity with something pleasurable. For instance, pick a toy that your dog will only get while you’re away—for this example, we’ll use a Kong. Stuff the Kong with low-fat peanut butter or another favorite, healthy treat, and give that to your dog when you leave. Your dog should start associating being alone with fun snack time!
4. Start with small increments of time and work up.
It’s very important that you start with small increments of time and work your way up to longer amounts. Start small with five minute trips to the mailbox or to the car. Once your dog has mastered the five minute trip for an entire week without incident, move up to 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and so on—making sure your dog has a complete week or more without any incident. If you are having trouble at a new time increment, drop back down to a previous time your dog was successful and work on that for a few more days.
5. Don’t make a big deal of it when you get home.
Much like projecting a calm demeanor when you leave, it’s important to stay calm when you get home, too. Let your dog know it’s not a big deal when you come and go. Wait until he or she has calmed down before you pet him or her—this may take a few minutes.
6. Give your dog a job while you’re away.
Dogs love having a job and something to do. Much like you’d do with counterconditioning, give your dog a task to keep him or her busy while you’re away. Try a food puzzle that hides kibble or treats away in little compartments that your dog has to work to free. Give us a call to learn more about good food puzzles!
7. Consider medication for severe cases of separation anxiety.
For severe cases of separation anxiety, sometimes medication is the safest method of treatment if all else fails. Some dogs only need to be medicated during a stressful period in their lives—such as moving or family members moving out of the house. Consult with one of our veterinarians to find out if medication is the right course of action for your pup.
Learn More About Managing Separation Anxiety in Dogs
If your four-legged friend is dealing with separation anxiety, call the experts at Germantown Vet. We offer dog behavior problem services, and we can help you manage your dog’s anxiety.