Separation anxiety in dogs can be a difficult situation for both the dog and the owner. Sometimes a dog who is very affectionate, or one that needs a great deal of care, can develop separation anxiety. It is important to remember that separation anxiety in dog is not the same as a dog misbehaving. In fact, separation anxiety is a form of panic for a pet, and they will often do things that might seem bad in order to alleviate that fear that they are feeling. Understanding why it happens, what your dog is trying to tell you and how to make him or her feel more confident can go a long way toward alleviating the problem and making everyone much happier.
Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
A dog who is suffering from separation anxiety will often do things that appear to be misbehavior, but it is really a dog trying to get your attention and bring you back home. These signs might include excessive barking, howling or whimpering, persistent pacing back and forth, urinating or defecating indoors, attempting to get out of a room or a crate to the point of injuring themselves, dilated pupils, excessive panting, and the most common thing: destructive behavior, including tearing things up and otherwise destroying your property.
It is important to remember that sometimes, misbehavior really is a dog behaving badly. For example, a bored dog might chew your slippers to bits. However, if the behavior appears only when you leave, and it happens every single time you leave, then that’s not misbehavior – it’s separation anxiety.
What Causes Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
Some dogs might have separation anxiety because they have been taken away from someone they loved. This is common with dogs who are adopted from shelters. Other reasons for separation anxiety include a change in schedule, a change in their residence, the death or absence of a family member, and other things that would upset a human, too – these things are all common causes for a dog to become clingy.
How to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Wear him out before you go
Some dogs need exercise in order to be okay with a long period of time alone. By giving them a good walk or run, they will be more tired and willing to rest or sleep while you are away, instead of panicking about when you might be back.
Start out very small
If your dog is having separation anxiety, ease into things by leaving the house for five minutes the first time, coming back, and then leaving for another five minutes. The more you do this, the more likely he will recognize that you are coming back. Make the periods of absence longer over time.
Say goodbye early
Some owners have trouble with leaving, because they feel so guilty. Avoid that by telling your dog goodbye at least ten minutes before you go, so that you feel better about the situation.
Be in charge
A dog wants to see that you are in charge of the situation, a strong pack leader. So when you do leave, be confident and calm, the better to make your dog believe everything is okay.
Try behavior modification
If all else seems to fail, you can try modifying their behavior through tried and true means. This includes working closely with someone who has experience with behavior modification. These steps include teaching independence, rewarding quiet and calm behavior, and enriching the surroundings so that your dog is never bored.
Keep a routine
Dogs might get upset when they don’t have a set routine. Create a schedule of exercise and play that will keep your dog happy. It also helps if you have a clear schedule of leaving and returning, so your dog knows that you will be coming back at a certain time. These routines can help your dog settle into your schedule.
Don’t make it a big deal
When you do leave, don’t say goodbye to your dog. It’s not a big deal that you are leaving, so don’t treat it like one. The more is seems like a routine, everyday thing, the more likely your dog will be to accept it and let you go without any distress.
Some medications for anti-anxiety might be used to treat severe separation anxiety in dogs. Keep in mind, however, that these are hopefully short term solutions that will allow your dog to calm down enough for good behavior modification. Patience matters a great deal, because it can take months to find the right combination of medications to help your dog deal with anxiety.
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