Reducing Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Despite our best intentions, it’s simply not possible to spend every minute of every day with our beloved pets. However, for some dog owners, leaving their pet alone results in more than just a reproachful stare.
Some dogs suffer from extreme distress when left alone. This is known as separation anxiety, and can affect many areas of our lives and daily routine. Necessity requires that our pets will be left alone for at least short periods of time, so separation anxiety can be problematic.
If your dog suffers from mild, moderate, or even severe separation anxiety, don’t worry. There are steps you can take to alleviate their distress.
Recognizing the Signs of Separation Anxiety
Not all symptoms of separation anxiety are immediately obvious. Here are a few to keep an eye out for:
- Destructive behavior
You might return to find shoes chewed, furniture and décor shredded, with your dog having destroyed everything they can get their paws on. Often, your dog will be trying to surround themselves with your scent, to make themselves feel safe. However, this isn’t much comfort when you arrive home to find your favorite pair of shoes utterly destroyed.
- Signs of distress when you leave
This is possibly the sign that is most associated with separation anxiety. When you leave the house, your dog may become very distressed. They may pant, whine, salivate excessively, chew or scratch, or maybe even tug at your legs and feet as you try to walk out the door.
- Barking while you’re gone
Your neighbors might complain about your dog barking, whining, or howling during your absence. This can be your dog trying to convince you to come back!
- Pre-emptive distress
Whenever you prepare to leave the house, your dog might figure out what’s up and start to get distressed, knowing that you plan on leaving. They also could get clingy, following you around the house everywhere you go.
It’s worth noting that dogs are sensitive to our moods and emotions. So, if you’re worried about your dog being anxious while you’re gone (or about any destruction, barking, or accidents) your dog will sense your tension, and get even more anxious themselves.
Make Your Dog Comfortable
The first step is to make your dog feel safe while you’re out. If they’re likely to chew or scratch, try putting them in a secure environment, where they can do minimal damage to themselves or their surroundings.
Make sure your dog has somewhere comfortable to sleep. It’s a good idea to leave an item of clothing for your dog to cuddle. The piece of clothing will smell like you, and can go a long way to reassuring an anxious dog. Leaving on the radio can also help. Leaving a snack or treat can also reinforce the idea that you leaving isn’t all bad!
Of course, you should always make sure your dog has access to fresh water, and has been to the toilet before you leave. This reduces the chance of bathroom accidents. You could also try taking your dog for a walk beforehand, to help burn off frenetic energy and encourage them to sleep while you’re gone.
If possible, train your dog from its youth to be comfortable being left alone. Of course, puppies can’t be left alone as long as adult dogs, but early training can help you avoid problems later on. The key is to teach your dog that being left alone isn’t scary, it’s a time to relax and maybe have a nap.
Start by leaving your puppy alone for just fifteen minutes at a time, while you do something else in the house. Make sure they’re in a comfortable, secure environment, with food, water, and toys available. If they seem distressed, come back and reassure them, then try again.
Gradually build up the time you spend away from your puppy. Then, when you need to actually leave them alone in the house, your dog will be comfortable and relaxed when left alone. This training process can take time, and some dogs may take longer to learn that others. Be patient, and persevere.
These training methods are good basic steps to teach any dog of any age that being left alone isn’t something to dread.
Use Calming Supplements
There are many reasons why a dog might suffer from separation anxiety. In adult dogs with severe anxiety, the symptoms can be much harder to deal with. If that’s the case, you may want to try a calming supplement.
These supplements are tablets that you can administer to your dog before you leave, to help them relax. They reduce stress, meaning that your dog is less likely to whine or destroy their surroundings. You can get a variety of flavors, and if you have difficulty feeding your dog a tablet, try wrapping the tablet in a tasty treat. A slice of ham or a modest amount of peanut butter always goes down well!
Get a Dog Sitter
If a long absence is unavoidable, try hiring a professional dog sitter, or ask a friend or neighbor to watch your dog.
- Stay calm when you leave the house. Your dog can sense if you’re stressed or anxious. Then your dog might feel that they’re right to be worried when you leave!
- Make sure your dog is comfortable and safe.
- Leave plenty of fresh water and possibly a treat.
- Punish your dog. Even if you return to find bathroom accidents or destroyed items, don’t shout or punish your dog. This will only reinforce your dog’s idea that you leaving is something to be dreaded. Remember, your dog likely won’t connect the punishment with the mess, so it isn’t going to be helpful.
- Leave your dog for a long time. While each dog is different, it’s generally not good to leave your dog alone for more than a few hours. Puppies require a lot more supervision. If you can, don’t leave your dog alone during thunderstorms or when fireworks are being released. Loud noises like these can easily scare a nervous dog.
When we bring a new dog home, it’s so much more than getting a new pet. We’re welcoming a new member of our family. Dogs give us loyalty and undying love, and we love them right back. You might personally have been considering getting a new dog.
Some people search out puppies and pedigrees, but is that really the best – or kindest – way to choose our new addition?
More and more dog owners are choosing to adopt their dogs, for a myriad of reasons. Adopting a dog can be rewarding beyond your wildest dreams.
Why Should You Adopt a Dog?
You might have heard that adopting a dog from a shelter can be challenging. While some dogs might have special requirements, that doesn’t change the fact that these dogs deserve a loving home. Adopting a dog can change their lives – and yours.
1. You Could Save a Dog
Simply put, many dogs in shelters end up being euthanized or spending the majority of their lives in the shelter. Shelters are often overcrowded because of the sheer number of dogs. While most dog owner are loving and responsible, too many people buy puppies on whims; for special events, for surprise gifts, and so on. Then, when they get bored or frustrated, or their pet outgrows its cute puppy stage, they put the dog in a shelter.
Older dogs often end up at shelters, and can be passed over in favor of younger dogs. It’s worth remembering that while everyone loves puppies, older dogs love everyone.
“We rescued my greyhound when he was 8 years old, and he has been my best friend ever since. He has been by my side through thick and thin. My parents moved away and he would not leave my side and was always there for me. My nan passed away and he would be there for me to give me a cuddle, he really is the best dog in the world.”
2. A Dog Might Save You!
We know that dogs provide love and companionship. In fact, a dog might get you through the hardest and most challenging periods of your life. An adopted dog does not mean a host of behavioral problems. In fact, it means love, gratitude, and a lifelong friend. Especially for those with health problems – emotional, physical, or mental – adopting a dog is definitely recommended.
A dog rescued from a shelter can give you the kind of love that money simply can’t buy.
“It probably sounds super stupid and cliche but Ted has literally saved my life. Without him, I wouldn’t be here today. I suffer from suicidal depression, and have for years. Nothing was really working nor helping: tablets, therapy, routine. Dogs were the only thing that could put a smile on my face. After a lot of struggling, I managed to get Teddy. He’s completely turned my life around. I still suffer, life is still hard, but just having Ted here makes things a bit more bearable!! I was very lucky with Ted; he’s been an absolute dream to own. Some days have been hard, but overall, he’s been amazing. He’s more than just a dog to me, he’s my best friend, family, my safety blanket, my world revolves completely around him. When he’s sad, I’m sad, when he’s happy, I’m happy, I cannot imagine life without him. He’s made my dark little world so much brighter just by existing.”
3. Adopting a Dog Brings Amazing Rewards
Some of the dogs in shelters have experienced a lifetime of neglect and poor treatment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be the one to give that dog a loving, happy home? Many dog owners who adopt talk about how they gradually eased a dog out of their nervousness and fear, showing them what it really feels like to be loved. You may need to go slowly and carefully when training your adopted dog. Remember, we all make mistakes, and your dog will likely need some time to adjust to their new life. Be patient.
We all want to be loved, to feel safe. Dogs are no exception.
“When it comes to tips for owning a rescue, all I can say really is don’t rush them, don’t push for training right away or socialization. While both are important, pushing them in the deep end can make them much worse before they even have a chance to get better. You want to work with your dog, do things at their pace, it’ll be much more rewarding in the end if you work with your dog; seeing that first wag of the tail or them playing with a toy. I remember how happy I got the first time Ted fully snuggled with me, it took time and was totally worth every second of it all! So yeah, patience is incredibly important!!”
What If You Can’t Adopt?
Despite the best of intentions, it might not be possible for you to permanently adopt a dog. If that’s the case, there are still plenty of things you can do to help.
1. Foster A Dog
If you can’t give another dog a permanent home, you could consider fostering. This gives dogs a comfortable, loving home to stay in while they wait for their forever home. Financial support will be given, and if you already have pets of your own, you can foster a dog that suits your needs.
Experienced dog owners make good foster homes, as they can help with training and socializing a dog.
2. Volunteer at Your Local Shelter
If you have a few hours a week to spare, you could give valuable time to helping out your local shelter. New volunteers are always needed! This is a fun and rewarding job for any dog lover.
3. Give a Financial Contribution
Running a pet shelter is a very expensive job. If you can, any financial contribution will be welcomed. Every little helps. If you want to donate, there are so many local shelters to choose from.
“You always hear people say about giving rescue dogs a second chance at life. Well, my rescue gave ME a second chance! I wouldn’t be here today without her, she’s everything to me.”