Sometimes dog parents witness abnormally needy behavior that turns into aggression or disobeying of basic house rules. Every pampered dog shows signs of separation anxiety as a baby, but the trouble begins when they refuse to improve even when they grow up. This can not only be a hassle in living a regular life but also be unhealthy for the dog. Here’s everything you need to know about separation anxiety and also the treatment to give.
What is separation anxiety?
The resentment to or uneasiness on being left alone is called separation anxiety. When a dog refuses to be left alone even for a short while, it could be separation anxiety you are dealing with. Returning home to a stressed out dog who has defecated in the wrong places or has chewed/destroyed household items or has made attempts to run away means you are dealing with a dog who has separation anxiety.
Why does separation anxiety occur?
The seeds of separation anxiety are usually planted in the first year of life of a puppy. Like babies, our dogs are very needy and clingy when they first come into our lives. If at that stage, we draw a line and get them used to being on their own, every now and then, then we will raise an independent chirpy furbaby. However, if we keep giving in to their squeals and demands for attentions each time, they can get used to it and feel depressed or bored when left alone.
Separation anxiety can also occur due to a change in regular lives brought about by some unforeseen circumstances. For example, losing a loved one in the family or moving houses can make dogs cling on to their owners desperately. This would mean that they wouldn’t let you step out of the house for even a short while. If at all you manage to, you can hear them howl or bark for a long distance.
What are the signs of separation anxiety in dogs?
Dogs are expressive beings and when they are in trouble or in pain, they will make sure you know.
Common signs of separation anxiety in dogs include:
- Excessive barking or howling.
- Destructive acts, such as chewing furniture and frantic scratching at doors or windows
- Indoor “accidents”—urinating or defecating in the house
- Excessive salivation, drooling, or panting
- Intense pacing
- If confined, prolonged attempts to escape
How to treat separation anxiety in dogs?
Separation anxiety is very much treatable by a step by step solution which includes changing your ways of showing affection and extra help from natural supplements.
Treating separation anxiety in dogs:
It’s a common solution but it is very effective. Dogs are den animals. They are naturally used to returning to their den when alone or for protection and warmth. When left alone, the dog will take to his crate and use it as a tool to feel normal about everything. However, many of us are used to making our dogs sleep with us. Which is great, but if you want to treat separation anxiety, you should introduce your dog to a crate and not make it look like a punishment. Here are some basic tips that can come handy when training your dog.
Reward the separation
Always return home and offer your dog something special. Maybe a biscuit or a toy or it’s favourite snack. But make sure you reward only on the occasion of you returning. If you mix the same rewarding with other activities like listening to you or doing a trick, then that might confuse your dog. You want your dog to look forward to you going, so that you can return to him with treats. So when you don’t go anywhere, your dog gets no treats.
If your dog is spending too much time home alone, try making these changes in your routine to make the long wait easy for your dog.
Lots of exercise
The tired your dog is the more peacefully it shall sleep. And we’re sure you know how much dogs love napping. A tired dog will rarely have the energy to howl or bark and wait restlessly. And this would also mean that you would spend quality time with your dog on walks, in parks or playing around the house just with the objective of tiring him. Isn’t that a win win?
Sometimes, no amount of training and conditioning will help. Your dog might continue showing signs of separation anxiety. Actually, this should be your first step to avoid the hassle of changing your routine and putting your dog in a crate. Some vets recommend medication such as amitriptyline, which is used to treat depression, or alprazolam, which is prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. These require a prescription and some versions might have side-effects on young dogs.
A better option is natural supplements. Natural and herbal supplements like ours help ease anxiety in dogs and include therapeutic herbs like the valerian root. Herbs like these help cure the dog’s own natural system to induce a sense of peace and calmness.
Play it Cool
PetMD recommends that you not pay attention to your dog when he follows you around closely. Most behaviors considered “attention seeking” can be modified by ignoring them. When you’re about to leave, try not to give cues that your pup will begin to recognize. In other words, depart calmly and without fanfare.
One important trick to help mental conditioning. Whatever you do right before leaving, like pick up the keys or wear a coat etc. should all be done without actually going out. For eg wear and remove your coat a few times. Pick up the keys but don’t leave. Walk up to the door and return. Step outside but return in a few minutes. These acts will become mixed signals for your dog and it won’t associate a particular act with leaving. Give it a try.
But irrespectively, separation anxiety is a serious problem and herbal supplements are a one step natural remedy that can help your dog cope with it. Find more information about our herbal dog supplements here.
References: Article by Erika Mansourian for American Kennel Club (December 2015) and Pam Johnson-Bennett’s book on cat behaviour