Dealing With Doggie Separation Anxiety

4 10 2010

Since dogs are pack animals, it only makes sense that they want to be with people all the time.  The idea of absence making the heart grow fonder doesn’t always sit well with our four-legged friends. In fact, it can send them right into a frenzy that includes wailing, barking, potty accidents and other self-destructive behavior. This is what pet experts refer to as “separation anxiety.”

The most likely victims of separation anxiety are “recycled dogs” – shelter or rescue dogs. Dogs that have been re-homed after the puppy stage are at much greater risk for separation anxiety because it is more difficult for older dogs to accept changes to their environment.  These distressed pets need help.

More often than not, separation anxiety is a result of too much pet to human bonding. We all want to spend time with our animals, but not allowing at least a little space will only cause problems for you and your dog. It’s just not healthy to spend every waking moment together, in the same room, on the same piece of furniture. Furthermore, walks, feeding time and play time shouldn’t be handled just by one person. Allowing this will cause ensuing panic for your dog if you have to be away during any of these times.

What Can I Do?

Dealing with your dog’s separation anxiety doesn’t have to lead to anxiety for you, too. It will take some time, but you can modify your dog’s behavior so that he handles your time away better. Here are a few tips that can help:

  1. Long walks or exercise. If you have time before you have to leave, a nice long walk, run or jog will help your dog burn off pent up energy and will make him want to sleep in the first hour or two that you’re gone – which is primarly when the worst of the anxiety is.
  2. Feed your dog before you leave. A stomach filled with healthy carbs will make your dog sleepy and relaxed and less likely to be anxious about your leaving.
  3. White noise. Dogs can hear every car, car door, pedestrian and rodent that moves around your house. Strange sounds can set off the wailing and barking and when you aren’t home to entertain him, he’ll likely hear every noise. A good way to combat this is white noise. Leave on a radio, television or even a fan – anything that you normally do when you are home to make things seem normal.
  4. A playmate.  If you are so inclined, a second pet will help with separation anxiety. There are plenty of worthy animals just waiting in shelters that need loving homes.
  5. Toys filled with treats. Dogs like to have something to do and toys stufffed with treats can help keep them busy for hours.
  6. Crates. Many pet owners use crates to help ease separation anxiety. This is one option to consider if your dog’s separation anxiety leads to terribly destructive or harmful behavior. While some may feel using crates is inhumane, keep in mind that some dogs prefer the close, den-like quality of a crate and will most likely curl up and sleep.
  7. Doggie Daycare. For some, this may be a last resort, but is another option to consider if your dog’s separation is exceptionally bad. If the other methods outlined here just aren’t working to modify your dog’s behavior, doggie daycare could be the answer. This method can help dogs socialized and let him know that’s it not necessarily a bad thing when you’re gone. In the beginning, you may have to take him every day, but as he begins to adjust you may find that you can take him less frequently.

Separation anxiety is not a good thing for your or your dog to deal with. If after you try the steps outlined above, you don’t feel that your dog is coping well in your absence, it may be time to call in an animal behaviorist. He or she will be able to help make the entire process easier for both you and your dog.



One response

21 10 2010
Senior Pets Need Love, Too « Animal Rescue Superhighway

[…] suffer from senility, fear of storms or other loud noises that wasn’t there before and even separation anxiety. These changes are normal and part of the aging process in your pet and if handled properly, […]

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