Separation Anxiety in Dogs
*Information adapted from Best Friends Animal Society*
Dogs are, by nature, social creatures that don't like to be alone. They also like having a routine — and a change in that routine can sometimes cause separation anxiety.
What can cause separation anxiety?
A variety of circumstances can trigger separation anxiety in dogs, including:
• Being introduced into a new family
• Increase in time spent away from you
• A move to a different home
• The death of a member of the household
• A new baby
• Spending time in a boarding facility or veterinary clinic
What can I do about separation anxiety?
First, practice leaving without opening the door. Put on your shoes, pick up your keys, and walk to the door — but don't leave. You may need to do this several times a day for several weeks.
Walk into a room and close the door. Wait a minute and then walk back into your dog's view. If your dog doesn't appear anxious, you can increase the time you spend away. If your dog becomes stressed, however, decrease the time. Once your dog is comfortable with this, you can practice leaving the house and returning after a few minutes.
Ignore your dog before and during the exercises. Remaining calm and quiet will help lower their excitement and anxiety. You can also provide a Kong stuffed with food or treats before trying the exercises.
You can also try:
• Making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. This will tire them out and help them to relax.
• Leaving a radio or television on when you leave. The background noise may provide reassurance.
What if my dog’s case is severe?
If your dog has severe separation anxiety, you may not be able to leave them alone during treatment. Try a dog sitter, dog walker or dog daycare facility. Your workplace may even allow your dog to join you.
If you follow the above tips and your dog is still not improving, seek help from a professional behavior specialist.
How can I prevent separation anxiety?
After you bring your dog home for the first time, acclimate them to periods of time away from you by practicing departures and brief absences. If you get in the habit of providing your dog with a stuffed Kong, your dog may even look forward to you leaving! Only give treats as you leave, however, not when you arrive home.
As mentioned above, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. You should also challenge them mentally by working on obedience training and problem solving, such as a game of hide-and-seek. Physical and mental activities help to build your dog’s confidence and make them less anxious.