Dog Separation Anxiety
Is your dog having trouble being away from you? Does your furry friend follow you around while you get ready to leave, or become seemingly upset when you’re about to leave?
Similarly, maybe you’ve even come back home to a destroyed living space, or heard from neighbors that your poor pooch has been barking and whining excessively while you’ve been gone.
If these sound familiar, your beloved pup may be struggling with separation anxiety and needs some behavioral or supplemental help.
What is separation anxiety?
Our dogs love us and it can be difficult for them to be away from us, especially when they’ve gotten used to us being home.
Unfortunately, this anxiety can cause your beloved pup to pick up a few negative behaviors. Since separation anxiety also stems from the fear of being away from you, it’s already at base difficult; how can you manage something that happens when you’re gone?
Signs of Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety manifests in different ways for dogs, and can be mild or severe. Some of these signs are:
- Following you around your home, especially when you’re getting ready to leave
- Hyperactivity or withdrawn behavior while you are leaving
- Destruction like chewing or digging
- Excessive barking or whining
When would I see signs of separation anxiety?
Dogs can have mild to severe symptoms of separation anxiety . Some of our furry friends will show signs during your morning routine before leaving the home, such as getting restless at the sound of your keys being picked up. Others will show stronger signs after you leave your home, such as excessive barking or destruction of items.
Symptoms of Mild Separation Anxiety
In mild cases, the behaviors associated with separation anxiety happen while you are still home. For example, your pup may be following you around when you’re getting ready to leave or, on the opposite end, be more withdrawn.
Symptoms of Medium to Severe Separation Anxiety
Once the behaviors go beyond the time of your typical routine, your dog is going through a more severe case of separation anxiety. If you come home finding your furry friend has chewed or dug through the items in your living space, or if you hear from a neighbor about your dog barking unprovoked well after you leave, it is more of a severe case.
Why is my dog so anxious?
This is difficult to answer, since each dog will react to scenarios differently. Thankfully, there are a few scenarios that may give you an idea of why these behaviors have started.
Are you leaving home at a different time than usual? Have you spent more time away from home recently? All of these scenarios can cause your pup to become more anxious to be away from you.
Try to remember when you first saw signs your beloved one was anxious, and see if it matches up with a certain change in your routine.
Has your dog had a bad experience while you were out one day, such as spilling their water or food bowl and not having those resources available?
Any small change in your schedule could ignite separation anxiety in your dog, but there are steps you can take to ease the stress associated with your routine.
How can I help ease my dog’s anxiety?
Every dog deserves a happy life. If your pup is struggling with separation anxiety, there are quite a few behavioral steps you can take.
- Desensitize your dog from your leaving-home routine
- Refocus the attention to something else
- Reward good behavior
- Encourage independence
By desensitizing your dog from your routine, you can lessen the effects of the anxiety. Train your dog to rethink what it means when you walk out the door.
Try picking up your keys and playing with them in your hands without walking out the door. You can then start leaving the home and only standing just outside your door for a few minutes before coming back in. Afterwards, try leaving your home for short periods of time, such as what would amount to half a work-day or a quick errand.
Are you transitioning back into an office after working from home? Click here to see more information on how to manage the big shift [link pending - future article].
Take the attention away from the negative associations. When picking up your keys, phone, or purse before leaving, play with your pup. You can also use toys, such as food puzzles to refocus from the scary or stressful tell-tales that you’re leaving the home.
Consider using these toys made to keep your pup concentrated for longer play while you’re away.
If your dog is food-driven, treats and mealtimes will make a big difference. If your dog is calm while you’re putting your shoes on or walking out the door, reward the positive behavior with a treat. If your dog prefers quality time, go ahead and take a moment to play with your furry friend as a reward.
You can even make your own dog treats to keep them engaged with new flavors!
Part of the separation anxiety comes with your loved one not wanting to be away from you. Encourage your pooch to do things on their own; eating in another room away from you or playing with a toy without your input are great examples of growing their independence.
Search or nose work games can help increase independence as well; giving your pup a task to do away from you can increase mental stimulation, build your dog’s confidence, and can be really rewarding for them.
Never forget the power of exercise!
Sometimes, behavioral steps cannot fully help out your pup. Separation anxiety can become quite severe, leaving your loved one in a panic when you leave. Supplements can help relieve the stress.
If you are looking into using supplements, it’s always a good idea to check in with your vet. You should also make sure the supplements you use have research-based ingredients that can truly calm your pup.
A few ingredients that can have a positive effect on your pup would include L-Theanine, Holy Basil, GABA, and Ashwagandha. Visit our Valida Supplement Science page to learn more about each ingredient.
|Supports a calm mood||X||X||X||X|
|Supports healthy immune system||X||X|
|Improves stress response||X||X|
It takes time
Anxiety usually doesn’t start all of a sudden, and it won’t disappear in just a few days. You will have to break a learned pattern from your dog’s behavior in order to get the stress related with the separation. Additionally, not managing the behaviors when they first appear will most likely make it worse.
“Dogs that have had separation anxiety for some time will need counter conditioning to get rid of all the negative associations they have with being alone. It’s important to understand that managing separation anxiety will take a lot of time and commitment on your part; it can’t be cured overnight.”
-- Puppyleaks.com, March 9, 2020
Don’t be disheartened if your furry friend doesn’t show signs of improvement in the first few days. When it comes to separation anxiety in dogs, small steps can create a big impact the longer you keep up with it.