Separation anxiety in dogs is a very serious problem. It is more than just your pet missing you while you are gone. Dogs with separation anxiety can become very destructive, ripping open pillows and gnawing on furniture. They can also exhibit dangerous behaviors like digging at the door, jumping onto windowsills, and trying to escape from the house.
Leaving your pooch alone may cause some serious damage, not only to your grandmother's antique furniture, but also to your pup's mental health. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, do not assume that it is just a phase that he will grow out of – you need to do something about it.
Tips for Reducing Separation Anxiety
Some dogs do not mind being left alone at home, but others have a high risk for separation anxiety if you frequently leave them alone for more than a few hours at a time. If your pooch doesn't get enough attention or exercise during the day, his risk for developing separation anxiety increases. Take care of your dog's separation anxiety by following these five tips.
- Take your dog for a walk before you leave: In many cases, dogs with separation anxiety benefit from an increase in exercise. Try to take your pup for a walk before you leave the house so that he is too tired to notice you leaving. Make the walk energetic by incorporating some running to ensure that your pup will be tuckered out when you get back home.
- Give your dog thirty minutes of playtime before you leave: If you aren't able to take your pup for a walk before you leave the house, make sure you give him twenty to thirty minutes of active playtime instead. If your pooch burns off all his extra energy in play, he's less likely to become anxious or destructive when you leave the house.
- Help your dog form positive associations with your leaving: Many dogs develop separation anxiety when their pet parents leave because they do not like being alone. The key to dealing with separation anxiety is to remove those negative feelings, and to help your dog form a positive association with your leaving the house. Find a special treat or toy that your pup loves and only give it to him right before you leave – then, take it away when you come home so he learns that he only gets the treat or toy when you leave. Interactive puzzle toys are great for dogs with separation anxiety because it keeps them occupied.
- Desensitize your dog's triggers for separation anxiety: Not only do many dogs develop separation anxiety when their pet parents leave, but it can also be triggered by things that lead up to your leaving. For example, picking up your keys or putting on your coat could trigger anxiety in your pup because you do these things before leaving. To desensitize your dog from this, perform these actions and then just sit on the couch for fifteen minutes or so. Over time, these actions will no longer cause your dog to feel anxious.
- Get your dog used to spending short periods of time alone: Rather than just throwing your pup into an eight-hour absence, try to get him used to spending time alone in short increments. Begin by leaving him for just a couple of minutes. You needn't go far, even just outside the door is enough in the beginning. As he learns to cope with this, you can work your way up to leaving him for an hour. Once your dog can spend an hour alone without becoming anxious, increasing the duration from there is simpler.
- Anti-anxiety medication can be very helpful in managing separation anxiety: Speak to your vet about whether they may be helpful for your pup.
Separation anxiety is not something that should be ignored – it can make your dog miserable and be harmful to his well-being. Follow the tips above to help your dog work through his separation anxiety and seek guidance from your veterinarian – and spare Grandma's antiques from the teeth of an anxious pup.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.